Readers of InOut will recognise the name Daniel van der Noon as the writer of its music listings. However, they are probably not aware that the Englishman is also an accomplished artist, already with several successful exhibitions under his belt.
Van der Noon made his first foray into the Danish art scene during his year-long stay in the capital as an exchange English literature and philosophy student a couple of years ago. Disillusioned by the idea of surviving life in bustling London, he returned late last summer, with only his special roller-ball pens in hand and acres of enthusiasm.
Testing the waters in the winter months and working his way into the small yet rich, young, contemporary art scene in Aarhus – working closely with the Parisian-styled art shop Tank, which is located just a few doors down from his current studio, and becoming a popular blogger on art blog idoart.dk – he soon found himself exhibiting at the city’s top gallery for young artists, Lunchmoney Gallery for Contemporary Art.
Welcoming their first international artist to exhibit in the space, it fast became evident that he wasn’t a mere flash in the pan. The show was sold-out and was followed by a string of invitations from the Netherlands, Germany and Copenhagen to make appearances at arts festivals, feature in creative magazines and participate in group exhibitions. The Danish art scene was quickly cottoning on to his highly individualised work, as artists, media and the general public took a particular liking to his trademark skylines.
“The buildings are more of a vehicle for my drawings,” explains Van der Noon. “The city is something very natural to construct – it comes as second-nature to me. I like to travel a lot, visit new cities, see new places, hear new noises. Through these skylines I guess that these desires and perks that I get from travelling around are amplified in ink.”
But there’s a number of aspects that act on the eyes through his work. His illustrations are a lucid symposium of colour, detail and composition. When people observe his work, they are consumed by the details, seemingly entering a state of mind that is not quite conscious, thereby blurring the distinction between illustration and art. Many of his drawings appear to have an impact that renders them more than illustrations.
“I studied art history and the philosophy of art as part of my degree,” explains Van der Noon. “The more I learned about the nature of art, what can be considered art and whether there is a standard of taste, the further I found myself from an ideal – the intuitive idea of art that I had as a kid.”
Van der Noon even questions whether he likes his own art. “There’s only a few doodles I have hanging in my bedroom, the rest is hidden in folders, behind wooden slats, on top of my cupboard,” he confesses. “There’s a few that I like, or I guess you could say I am proud of. I don’t know, I think they’re all reflections of myself. What stares back at me when I see these things are chunks of myself, so I don’t really think about them as drawings per se, I look at them from a different perspective. I guess that’s proof that I’m not narcissistic. But, of course, I do like them. I pour my soul into these drawings – this is my livelihood.”
When I visited him in his studio, he was just adding the finishing touches to a giant rendering of the New York skyline: a drawing that expands almost two metres in width and has taken over 100 hours to complete. I was alarmed by the amount of time he must spend alone staring into these thousands of tiny windows, no bigger than grains of rice, each speedily etched into paper with surprising precision. “People often ask this. I surround myself with what I refer to as ‘props’. When I draw, there’s more often than not a film playing, or a playlist playing, and I sometimes work with other artists in town or happen to be commissioned in some ‘normal’ working environment in the city. I’m surrounded by people more than I think.”
With a loose plan to concentrate more on Copenhagen over the second half of the year, there’s a few things lined up throughout the summer, including an invitation to this year’s Reeperbahn Arts Festival in Hamburg and a group exhibition of international artists sponsored by Red Bull in Copenhagen.
To see more of Van der Noon’s work, visit www.danielvandernoon.co.uk. Or follow his Facebook arts page at Daniel van der Noon Illustration.