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In Conversation: Daniel O'Toole

Daniel O’Toole‘s latest collection is a positively dreamy delight. He presents the intricacies of the colour spectrum, magnified and manipulated to create works that pulse and glow which creates a sense of dynamic movement from within the static work.

We’re simply delighted to welcome him into the gallery for his first solo exhibition at Modern Times, Cascade Rumble.

We recently spoke with O’Toole about creating this body of work, and how a multi-disciplinary approach helps to explore his personal experience with synaethesia. You can also head inside O’Toole’s studio and listen to his Studio Sounds playlist on Spotify.

Read on for a little window into the colourful gradients depicted in O’Toole’s body of work, and download the catalogue here to view all the artworks in this brilliant exhibition.

His exhibition at Modern Times, Cascade Rumble, includes digital prints and painted gradients that look at natural phenomena as a reference point for abstraction.

Can you tell us about Cascade Rumble and what this collection of work represents to you?

Cascade Rumble – is a series of works that furthers my inquiry into the behaviour of light, and its correlation with sound. For me personally, it represents a very joyful and calm atmosphere.

The works are slightly larger than my last show, and for me it feels more immersive when you can stand in front of one of the larger works, and have your balance and depth perception gently altered, the field of colour becomes part of the space and you feel as if they are breathing or moving slightly. This is due to the light refraction being created by the semi-transparent acrylic screen, and the lack of a focal point; your eyes are trying to adjust and find a place to focus, which can be frustrating for some people. If you surrender into this feeling the work starts to evoke a physical experience beyond normal modes of visual analysis. A new way of seeing. 

The whole show is fairly meditative and surreal, the dye sublimation pieces really feel back lit, and I am super excited by how bright those colour hues are coming out. ”
— Daniel O'Toole
O'Toole's artworks seemingly breathe and hum a frequency of sound.

The exhibition includes works created digitally, as well as others which involve a more analogue process – can you share how you approach these two methods, and what draws you to one method rather than the other?

Initially this work was more clinical in process, and I was carefully transcribing video stills as paintings, looking to learn about colour and find ways of painting the digital images that felt resolved in their own right as a painting. Now I have loosened my grip on that process and tend to move more fluidly between referenced colours from time based works, and leaning on my imagination for colour ideas. The digital works are a different type of painting to me, I still view them as painting on a conceptual level, just utilising different tools. A mouse and screen in place of paint and canvas. The benefits are obvious; time efficient, and no exposure to toxins. Also, the colour saturation and brightness that I can achieve through these digital methods combined with dye sublimation printing extends beyond what I have so far been able to achieve with paint. I am still drawn to using paint though, as it yields a different result in how the work feels more than how it looks, which is a bit esoteric, I guess.

The flaws and happy accidents give a certain feeling to the work, and they are slightly darker but have a mood of their own.

I enjoy painting, so having a combination seems to satisfy both my urge to physically interact with colour in the form of paint, and the digital work allows me to discover colour interactions and digital effects that extend beyond my painting skill. ”
— Daniel O'Toole
O'Toole approaches the painted panels with a playful and intuitive process.

Your artistic practice also involves sound and video works, how does this multidisciplinary approach influence your visual artworks?

The video works are an opportunity for me to explore my painting ideas in motion and play with how sound and colour can relate to one another. It’s quite a deep rabbit hole, and in a way, I have often felt the videos are the most interesting part of my practice. Their value in our system of selling objects is less clear, and the paintings are an accessible visual artifact that have been extracted from this practice. One supports the other, and I suppose there is no need to assess the value of one over the other, although it becomes interesting when I think about what these paintings would mean if they weren’t supported by my audio-visual works, and on the inverse, the video works start to mean more in the context of the more resolved sculptural paintings.

"So, in the end, I think of it (his multimedia approach) as a sort of ecosystem and one wouldn't survive without all the other organisms."

This way of thinking influences my works by creating a sort of self-referential echo chamber, the things I learn through painting can be applied to how I make video pieces and alter my intended outcomes in that arena, the discoveries through digital experimentation then inspire me to try and replicate those interactions of colour in the studio. Sound is the dark horse here being left out of the equation a bit, but my video works are always paired with sound-design that I feel is appropriate for the piece and this mood is then attached to any images I may make from that video work. So perhaps something of the soundscape is captured in the final image if that is possible, or at least there is a strong association for me that applies sounds to the paintings and a sense of musical harmony becomes an important concern when composing pictures. 

The framing of your works is very unique, and is intrinsic to the artworks themselves. What lead you to develop these particular frames and how did you approach the collaboration with your framer?

The initial idea was to replicate the effect I was capturing in photographic and video works that had been shot through frosted Perspex by framing the works with the same material. It has been a long and expensive process to fine tune the method, originally the frames were made out of Australian hardwoods and were overall a distraction from the subtle effect of the screen and how it refracts light. Once I realised this was the problem, it allowed me to find what the work was really about for me, and hone in on developing my practice to find the clearest ways of communicating this play of light. The mirror inlay was an idea that allowed the colour to become endless within the frame, as you no longer have an end point or any way of reading where the colour sits in space. The design process in collaboration with my framer has been a series of micro adjustments and a process of trial and error. This design process has been largely conversational and the shared enthusiasm for overcoming the challenges that the idea presented, motivated both Ryan (United measures/Melbourne) and myself. Ryan has been incredible to work with, and I owe a lot to his dedication with all of this. 

O'Toole wanted, "the frame to disappear into the white cube, and for the colour to hang in space, as if there was no frame."

Often the frame is a decorative after thought that gets applied at the last stage and enhances the work by way of containing the composition, and setting final limits on its boundary, it is a neat contrast to more expressive works in particular. With respects to my work however, the frame is closer being to the core concern and the painting inside becomes a vehicle to express the frame. So, the frame is really an integral part of the work. 

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