Armed with the unlimited resource of his own humanity and an alchemic visual curiosity – Daniel O’Toole, the Sydney based artist, has garnered himself a reputation as a serious practitioner who has been propelled by his body of work into the vanguard of Australian contemporary artists. His mark making, energised by the whimsical nature of childhood balanced with deeply informed gestures, delves into his subconscious and returns with unexpected visual consequences. Drifting through painterly constellations outside our preconceptions of traditional portraiture, he has fortified his own enigmatic sanctuary to explore the potential within himself, the potential that is his alone to reveal.
O’Toole is a painter’s painter, who on his quest for innovation, has soaked himself in and continues to absorb countless influences whilst trusting his own natural temperament to colour every aesthetic decision. His works are symphonies of chance, artful violation and bold decision-making. His exertions are rich with improvised feminine touches, obtuse transfers of energy, drastic changes of direction and commendable conviction. His acutely serious work ethic and playfulness combine with a desire to uncover his paintings rather than design them. This ensures an element of risk, resolution and problem solving is present in all his works, which brings them alive with a blend of sophistication and brazen naiveté. Each painting is a diary entry of honesty, and in succession, they form a cohesive visual narrative outlining his development as an artist and as a person over his life as an expressive entity.
Drawing and painting from an early age, O’Toole’s images are a result of many thousands of hours of self-directed work, experimentation and dedication. As anyone who has tried to learn something with a yearning for aptitude understands, there is an expansive lonely tundra of graft and failure between the genesis of initial interest and even the vaguest notion of mastery of an endeavour. To attain degrees of command over a medium, an aspiring master must relinquish themselves to their imagination, silence doubt, abandon fear and never cease to obey the obligations of their calling. They must be actively practising their art form, ready to capitalise on flashes of light across their mind as they occur – capturing the cadences of these free-flowing thoughts to decipher the instinct that accompanied the birth of the idea. An aspiring master is someone who keenly perceives their own inner life and seeks models of thinking and action in those around them. An individual whose intellect is alive in many directions and understands the value of successive productions of thought – first learning how to lay bricks and then continually seeking material to build from these foundations. Equipped with an openness to new experiences and influences, they step into their power, believe in the validity of their own vision, whilst resigning themselves to the humbling reality that they have much to learn from the work and mentorship of others.
It takes a strong sense of purpose and a focused mind to silence the white noise of societal expectation and pierce the veneer of convention and limitation many of us are conditioned to cultivate around ourselves. Unconfined, it is from the other side of this manmade membrane that O’Toole’s disfigured countenances recite silent poetry back to an ever-decreasingly poetic world. His attempts to question the meaning of his existence are the sonorous clouds relieving a drought-stricken art world afflicted with an addiction to graphic design, realism and replication; expressive underpinnings that result in art that reveals little more of its creator’s personality than their lack of imagination and an addiction to security. O’Toole’s disdain for safety, taste for forays into the unknown and daily battles with the concept of originality stand in direct opposition to this. His outlook can be interpreted as nothing less than a veritable how-to guide for any artists operating in any medium, that are interested in uncovering their own distinctive and valuable voice.
Existence predestines us to experience a gamut of emotions, and the more emotional truths an artist is willing to reveal, the further into our psyches they can penetrate. O Toole’s work distils his sincerest possible self and exemplifies the innate fragility of what it means to exist as a conscious human being on this planet. It is this accessibility that enables people to subconsciously connect to his work and relate to it so effortlessly. His paintings represent the unmatched strength of vulnerability and provide a cathartic glimpse into the internal worlds that we all attempt to calm, quantify and comprehend on a daily basis. His work is the flint that sends the spark of our thoughts back in the direction from which we have come, to the depths where our elemental self lies obscured within us. When face to face with his canvasses the weight of our psychological shortcomings feels shared. We’re no longer exiles, his secrets are our secrets and we’re receiving the gift of permission, to feel OK about not knowing our place in this world.