Based on Thomas Phillip’s 1807 portrait, William Blake II is uncanny in its decrepit, post-apocalyptic semblance. Exchanging the rich warm hues of Georgian parlour painting for the ashen greys of his recycled study, William Daniels revives his art historical subject as a zombie-like effigy, an homage to a hero that’s both futuristic and decayed. Through Daniels’s concentrated process of working from constructed models, William Blake II resounds with a heightened sense of the presence of the subject before the artist, bringing to light issues of originality, authenticity, and the malleability of documentation.
In their rustic aesthetic and exaggerated spatial rendering, Daniels’s paintings, at first glance, appear to be contemporary explorations of cubism. They are, however, immaculately drafted still-lifes. Daniels begins each piece by making immensely detailed collages: reconstructing well-known art historical paintings from bits of found paper and household products. Using these as maquettes, he then translates each fold, frayed edge, and bevelled texture into highly realistic paintings. The maquette made for The Shipwreck attempts what should be technically impossible: recreating the impressionist brush marks and ethereal light of a Turner painting in a monochrome cardboard structure. Daniels’s small canvas interprets the qualities of the model rather than the original, evolving the scene as a kind of anti-drama, eerily deadened and stilled.