René Daniëls (born 1950 in Eindhoven), the main figure in Van Lieshout’s film, is one of the best-known Dutch painters of the late twentieth century. In the early 1980s, he gave the medium, which was already considered anachronistic by many at the time, a new relevance by combining color, figuration, abstraction as well as language poetry – inspired by René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers, among others – to create a contemporary art in the spirit of post-punk, thus having a lasting influence on the further development of painting, not only in the Netherlands.But just as quickly as his work gained international attention, he and his career were abruptly thrown off course in 1987, when Daniëls suffered a serious stroke from which he never really recovered. René Daniëls’ health is still severely affected by the consequences. Nevertheless, he resumed painting already years ago. The works created since then have a quality all of their own, but are very different from the paintings which have maintained René Daniëls’ fame since the 1980s.
When Daniëls was awarded a lifetime achievement prize at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in the summer of 2019, Van Lieshout, who was present at the ceremony, came up with the idea of making a film about him. The two had met a few times before in an art context, but without knowing each other any better. On the basis of Daniëls’ agreement, an intimate, equally sensitive and thoroughly cheerful artists’ portrait of a special kind was created in the course of the following year. René Daniëls is a film that questions what it means to be an artist and at the same time tells of the attempt to enter into dialogue with a fellow human being for whom normal conversation is impossible and for whom, apart from curt yes and no answers, facial expressions alone allow conclusions to be drawn about his thoughts.
For the shooting, Daniëls and Van Lieshout met repeatedly in the course of 2020. The resulting film, which is mainly based on these encounters. The focus is on the here and now, showing the present everyday life of René Daniëls, who as a person, even before his illness, likes to surround himself with a certain mystery. As Van Lieshout shows us, Daniëls’ daily routine is shaped by his current artistic practice and by the presence of Marleen Gijsen, his girlfriend in his teenage days, who has been looking after the artist since his stroke and also manages his work. Above all, however, the film tells of Van Lieshout’s persistent efforts to reach a direct personal exchange, including not least questions about art and painting, with René Daniëls.
Very special thanks to
René Daniëls and Marleen Gijsen
Direction and camera
Erik van Lieshout
Core van der Hoeven
Sound post production
Nico van Bunnik
Erik van Lieshout and Suzanne Weenink
Misja van Daal
Henk Een-Been (Henk OneLeg)
the painters -in order of appearance- Sam Hersbach, Laurens Stok
And the painters Leo Arnold and Marcel van den Berg footage was great, but didn’t make it to the edit
Bart van Lieshout, Dirk van Lieshout
Sannetje van Haarst
Gert Robijns - RESET Home, Borgloon/Belgium, August-September 2020
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam : Leontine Coelewij, Maaike te Kulve
De Pont, Tilburg : Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, Maria Schyder
Made with the financial support of Mondrian Fund, Art Dock and Netherlands Film Fund