Some artists create paintings that look like real life, whereas Daniel Bilmes creates paintings that look like another medium entirely. The Los Angeles-based artist weaves ethereal female figures into abstract environments by raking through nearly dry paint. As a result, his subjects appear to float in a mesmerizing dreamscape.
Bilmes' upcoming solo exhibition Eternal Recurrence, features a mix of abstract portraits with natural motifs, as well as some full-length figurative paintings. He unites the series through his distinct textural style, and by using a muted color palette of browns, creams, pinks, and the occasional blue. “I’ve always found myself interested in the process of how something is constructed—for example, I’ll get lost in how a figure or a hand or a fabric is woven together—the visual rhythm of textures fascinates me,” Bilmes tells My Modern Met. “I focus as much on how my paintings come to life, as the finished product.”
The series emphasizes the visual power of texture through the numerous lines “combed” through the paint. “I try to infuse the start of every painting with as much movement and energy as possible,” he continues. “I begin with the longest brush strokes and work my way down. I like to move the paint around a lot when it's wet, and then scrape into it as it dries.” This meticulous process creates a “hand-drawn” appearance, as though they were made with pastel, rather than oil paint. This technique also emphasizes the textures of skin, clothing, and hair.
Most of the subjects emerge from their background as though they are a part of it. This slightly unfinished look makes it seem as though a narrative is taking place as the viewer is looking at the painting. Additionally, the connection between the figures and the small world they occupy creates palpable energy on the canvas. “I weave my figures into abstract environments where they are pushed and pulled by time and fate,” Bilmes says. “Much of the story is in the brushstrokes and visual rhythms.”
Eternal Recurrence will be on display at Arcadia Contemporary in NYC from September 18 to October 3, 2021. You can also purchase prints via Bilmes' online store, and keep up to date with his latest creations and shows by following the artist on Instagram.