In conversation with Daniel Turner

Daniel Turner was trained as a painter, but now focuses his practice on sculptures, installations, wall reliefs, etc. He did start off with paintings, but along the way felt that was too two dimensional. The shift happened in 2006 when Turner destroyed his canvases in a bonfire, which resulted in a piece called, ‘Burning an Entire Body of Work.’

Daniel Turner, 110/120, digital video, TRT: 60 mins, 2016.

Turner’s act regarding ‘Burning an Entire Body of Work’ reminds me of one that the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich did in 1913. Malevich did not like what he saw in a painting he was working on, so he painted it over with black and consequently made his most known work, ‘The Black Square.’ The shift of the art scene started with acts like Malevich’s. We came from paintings that were perceived as extensions of the artist’s body, to industrially produced object what are in fact artworks. And industrial not just because they look that way, but because the works are and can actually be industrially produced. Daniel Turner makes industrial art. He also makes art that is beyond beautiful. Beautiful in silent, pure and subtle way.

What is the most essential part of your work? Idea, execution or final product?

I think of each in equal measure; it’s somewhat rare for me to divide the three.

Are you confident when it comes to your work?

Sure, although I have days even weeks when I’m not satisfied with anything I’m doing.

What was the longest period of time you invested in a piece?

I recently showed a piece titled Particle Processed Cafeteria, which involved dissolving the entire contents of a cafeteria then spraying that cafeteria onto the floor. That took about six years, which is probably the longest time I’ve ever spent thinking about, or working on a single sculpture.

How many times in between did you change your mind about the look of it and how many times did you want to stop?


How do you choose the materials you work with and do you love to experiment with different textures and unknown materials, or you prefer to stick with what you know?

I chose to work with materials that resonate with me on an intuitive and philosophical level. Experimenting is important, although the majority of experimenting that takes place is happening in my head.

You were trained as a painter but in 2006 you stoped painting, and you started to produce a different kind of work. That said, were you always interested in making the kind of art you do today, or at the beginning, your interest laid somewhere else, in actual paintings, let say?

I arrived at sculpture through painting, that happened naturally. The paintings were leaning that direction, so I simply listened to the work.

What kind of reaction do you hope to get from people?

A sensible one.

How do you know when to stop working on a successful work?

I have to be engaged both spiritually and intellectually to stop working on a piece, but neither to begin one.

What do you think makes someone an artist and when did the shift happen to you? Shift from non-artist to actually being one.

I suppose everyone’s an artist in their own right, although I think the term gets thrown around more so than it should. The shift happened for me when I realized that I had the capacity to really see, with a genuine interest in understanding myself in proximity to that vision.

Who or what influenced your work the most?

Probably the environment where I grew up.

And that environment is?

Farmland in southeast Virginia.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?

Either in New York City or the middle of nowhere.

When was the last time you cried?

A few weeks ago.

What is your view like at this exact moment?


Text: Katja Horvat

Photo: Courtesy of the artist