Tercet

Danny Rolph Església del Convent Sant Domingo de Pollença
July 2024

“Tercet” is the result of a conversation with its surroundings, and the artist’s work. It is an immersive experience, in which Rolph appropriates time, space, light, forms, words and colour. Shunning the message of a lineal narrative, the observer is invited to take part in a contemplative sensorial experience.
For this artist, form and concept go hand-in-hand and can only be explained together; he sees his work as a visual experience, and focuses his efforts on creating for those persons that accept and believe in the revelation that visual discovery brings. And despite the conflict and doubts that assail us, Danny Rolph encourages us to embrace doubt and discovery, making them part of his artistic process, as the only way of attaining new compositional dynamics.

Special mention must be made of the music group Janksy, who have created a tailor-made composition for this installation, which frames it and enriches the final aesthetic experience.
Jansky is an electroverse duo working with live electronic music, flute, poetry and natural soundscape recordings. They are based at Rampa Lab, where they research and create with sound, word and non-human languages.
They regularly play in festivals and underground venues worldwide, and their albums have received a Sound Of The Year Award 2020 (BBC3) and the SUNS Europe 2018 among other recognitions.

Just a conversation.

This experience of commissioning with Danny Rolph could be summed up as a long conversation. A conversation where ideas emerge and evolve during the course of an exchange of opinions. The number of ideas and concepts that come to mind as we talk is directly proportional to our capacity to relate to one another. All the ideas that live in our memory must necessarily be questioned; only through sharing opinions can discoveries be made: the truth is that everything in the world of aesthetics can be considered relatable, and ideas progress precisely from this capacity for relatability.

Danny Rolph’s phrase, “To me, Bernini is as interesting as a Hip Hop song by De La Soul” succinctly defines the experience of aesthetics or the sublime, moving beyond all artistic disciplines and surviving through time, regardless of the era in which it was created. As a result, the notion that the artist can create compositions by combining the most unlikely references does indeed make sense – such as Baroque art, Kandinsky, Polke and O’Keefe – creating abstract works, with vibrant colours such as those of Veronese, and dramatic compositions in the manner of Tiepolo, that reveal the polycarbonate structure used in their construction. And all this, whilst listening to electronic music, interspersed on occasions with Moszkowski. In Rolph’s world, everything has the potential to be included in a poem; everything mundane has the capacity to become extraordinary. His work is living proof that beauty is immemorial, and as he rightly says, the ability of art to communicate is uncontrollable, unstoppable, and relentless.

Starting from this premise, Danny Rolph presents “Tercet”, his response to the invitation to create a work to be exhibited in Pollença Museum. In a space as special as this – a Baroque convent church filled with aesthetic references (in terms of both its architecture and the contents of religious imagery) – he begins, in the manner of accepting a challenge, by striking up a conversation between his work and the particular architectural context.

The poem “This Is Just To Say”, by Williams Carlos Williams, provides him with an excuse to explain to us how, from the visual arts, a direct relationship can be established between the Baroque, Modernism and contemporaneity.
What captures Rolph’s attention is the precise and descriptive language the imagist poem uses to describe an everyday scene, inspiring him to present an artistic proposal in three bodies – a painting, an installation and the church itself – inviting us to walk through it.

This particular tercet begins with an initial verse, a two-dimensional work that shares the same name as William’s poem “This is Just To Say”: a large format diptych on various layers of polycarbonate that lend a sense of depth and movement to the work. In this first work, Rolph shrugs off all forms of constraint, superimposing images that we are unable to relate with anything real, except perhaps for objects that he has found and that form part of the natural background of a studio. Scraps of shiny paper, or details of clearly defined geometric forms mixed with less precise, blurred shapes that form the background. Layer upon layer of references taken from his individual experiences which, in the manner of memory inputs, remain encrypted among the polycarbonate layers. This diptych is presented to us as a pre-text, perhaps the perfect excuse for finally escaping the constraints of painting and testing its capacity to expand towards three-dimensionality.

As we move further inside the church, skirting the wall that blocks our view, we come across the work entitled “Contact”, a four-sided construction made with painted transparent polycarbonate sheets and placed in the centre of the space. It has been meticulously planned to ensure our entire attention is drawn towards it. A changing light gleams from the interior. The contrast between the material, light and pictorial motifs that cover it and the space it stands in is particularly striking. It is almost as if his pictorial work has unfolded and expanded in order to become an evocative and moving three-dimensional installation.

During the assembly of this central piece, I was able to observe that the polycarbonate sheets had been strategically painted on both sides. On the inside, the artist makes joyous use of painting in the form of irregular and fairly impastoed clouds. Lacking any kind of shape, these pale tones are a clear reference to those Baroque painted skies, hinting at the connection between the visual experience and our surroundings. In contrast, the outer side of the sheets reveal a completely different type of painting, featuring carefully traced shapes which, floating over invented backgrounds of skies, are repeated in an invitation to read a fragmented, non-lineal composition. We are faced with the urge to break a coherent discourse that reflects the complexity and uncertainty of contemporary narrative. It is at this point that conversation becomes dissonance, necessary in order to challenge and constantly redefine the limits of his creativity and our own perception.

On his first visit, Rolph immediately spotted that, surprisingly, the church of the Convent of Sant Domingo has no stained-glass windows. Convent churches are spaces of retreat and withdrawal, and therefore lack openings that allow the light to pass through. However, the artist’s recollection of Baroque architecture is filled with colourful stained glass that illuminates the interior. It is a question that he finds dissonant, driving him to seek to replace the lack of light with an alternative source; to find a form of spiritual enlightenment, an essential aspect in all those temples the artist has previously visited. The references proliferate in his mind, and looking at his work now, can be clearly identified: Baroque cathedrals such as the one in Toledo or the Church of Saint Mark in Florence; the light-based installations of Dan Flavin and the spiritual nature of James Turrel’s works are superimposed over the music trends of the 1990s and even films (I can’t help making the connection with the monolith in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”). It is clear that light, as an element that illuminates not only the soul, but also the intellect, is present and is used by the London-born artist to relate his work to the space it inhabits. The artist plays with the perception of the visual experience, in which the simplicity of the message, combined with the visual complexity of the work, reflects a duality that is an invitation to contemplation.
The light reflected in the surroundings converts “Contact” into a link between the convent and Danny Rolph’s painting. It is an installation that moves through time and space: establishing a connection with its surroundings, it tests the memory’s ability to recall individual experiences, and at the same time challenges our capacity to associate information between events and create new knowledge.

In short, “Tercet” is the result of a conversation with its surroundings, and the artist’s work. It is an immersive experience, in which Rolph appropriates time, space, light, forms, words and colour. Shunning the message of a lineal narrative, the observer is invited to take part in a contemplative sensorial experience.
For this artist, form and concept go hand-in-hand and can only be explained together; he sees his work as a visual experience, and focuses his efforts on creating for those persons that accept and believe in the revelation that visual discovery brings. And despite the conflict and doubts that assail us, Danny Rolph encourages us to embrace doubt and discovery, making them part of his artistic process, as the only way of attaining new compositional dynamics.

Mercedes Estarellas, June 2024

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