As energetic and gregarious as his paintings, Daniel Grüttner, a contemporary abstract painter sits in his Berlin studio beaming amongst his very sizable works. His vibrant pieces tower over him, exuberant and playful. Grüttner has accomplished what almost every artist wishes for - an artistic language that is recognizable to an audience. Any viewer who is familiar with his work can pinpoint the artist’s hand; the gestural brushstrokes, the experimental colors, and the duality of chaos and harmony. Despite his initial pursuit of practicing medicine, there seems to have never been a time in Grüttner’s life where creating art was not a priority, a way for him to escape reality, and forget about his existence entirely.
Early on, Grüttner was rather disconnected from art, but a bit of exposure to it from his school teacher changed the tides. By twenty years old, the artist was living in a small village outside of Rome, venturing to various galleries in the city exhibiting artists such as Cezanne and Basquiat. Despite his draw to the art world, Grüttner ultimately decided on a “more rigorous” career at a University in East Germany studying medicine, but after one short year, he knew that this path was not for him.
In Dusseldorf, Grüttner was immersed in an environment surrounded by students who were unafraid to take risks and who craved innovation. The freedom of developing something out of sheer want, and the universal understanding of that freedom were contagious.
Having initially explored a career in the science and medical field, I was intrigued to ask Grüttner about the parallels between the two very different career paths he embarked upon. We spoke about the creativity involved in any scientific pursuit - the path of exploration, finding patterns and discovering solutions. They are both processes of trial and error, driven by curiosity and the drive to unearth something new in the world.
Grüttner’s process for creation is one that is constant and ever-changing. He embraces the unknown and the challenge of reconstruction. Rather than viewing reworking a piece or starting over completely as setbacks, he thinks of these moments as opportunities to keep going, to keep creating - a luxury many only dream of having. “The moment I shut the door to my studio,” he says, “the painting takes over. I try to push to a point where the painting starts imploding as if it exists in and of itself. Everything I gave into the painting is not important - my emotions, my feelings, none of it. I forget about all of that. That's what my work offers not only to me but to my audience - the luxury to forget about yourself.”
Grüttner is a rule-breaker. He doesn’t follow a specific formula, nor does he create artwork for people to commoditize. He recalls a rule in painting class that one of his professors told him to implement in his work: never use black paint. The professor told him, “Black is a hole in the canvas. You have to mix colors to achieve the depth and darkness of black.” As soon as the rule was in place, the young artist broke it. He saw it as the chance to soften a rule, turn it around, and do something that was not considered “right.” His inclination to break the norm, and turn things around until he created something new and exciting is representative of the artist’s practice as a whole.
Grüttner was recently acquired by Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, a national graphic arts collection in Munich, Germany. With hundreds and thousands of contemporary abstract works from all over the world, two of his drawings will stand alongside renowned artists such as Jackson Pollock and Hiroshige. This is a big feat for the artist, who explains that having been more insecure in his younger years, would have never envisioned such a huge accomplishment.
When I asked Grüttner what he hopes to accomplish moving forward, he referenced a famous French actor. The actor was asked what his biggest wishes were, to which he answered with fervor, “Stay drunk for three months, and then explode.” Grüttner, who emphasized that he does not paint for the purpose of exhibiting or selling, feels similarly. His biggest desire in life is to, in his words “dissolve myself completely into painting. All the rest is not in my hands, it will just happen to me and I can deal with it.”
Sugarlift is pleased to feature Daniel Grüttner’s painting Haut (Skin) in their latest project in the Tribeca Green Residences. For more information about Daniel Grüttner and his work, visit sugarlift.com, or inquire at email@example.com.