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Danny Rolph / Happenstance
17/04/2007 - 20/07/2007

Inauguration April 17, 2007, 7.00 pm
Happenstance is Danny Rolph’s second solo exhibition in Milan. It coincides with the publication of the first comprehensively illustrated monographic book on this painter whose critical reputation in his native Britain has grown steadily over the past decade.

Although Rolph has always worked in London he has felt an affinity with Italian culture since his youth. At that point it was the combined strengths of Italian design, fashion and football that inspired him. That admiration has never deserted him, but it has been joined by a fascination with the country’s art, its colours and architecture, confidence and energy.

And it was in Rome in 1998 that Rolph came upon the material that helped to condense into painting the sensation of ceaseless activity. That material was Twinwall, industrially-made plastic sheeting that is at the same time durable and light, translucent and optically ambiguous. Constructed with a network of fluted interior chambers it can be painted front and back, like a sheet of fine paper.

Sandwiched to similarly painted sheets Twinwall made it possible to build up multiple intercommunicating surfaces in a single painting that none the less remained light enough to carry and hang. Above all, the mixture of different paints, applications, outlines and collage generated a striking metaphor for the sensual bombardment of modern life by simultaneous sounds, smells, shapes and colours; by the continuous overlapping of fleeting glances, textures in movement, changing light and the memory of all that.

The experience of working this way enriched Rolph’s paintings on canvas, and new examples are included in this exhibition side-by-side with images on Twinwall and on paper. Together they display his creative cool in the midst of the chaos his works unleash. Rolph orchestrates the Palio-like pageant of complementary and distracting forces with the aplomb of a concert master – or of the unseen narrator of a mysteriously-titled sci-fi melodrama. For alongside the joy in invention and constant amazement, the spaces in which forms bloom and angle are shallow and discontinuous, intense and disturbing.

Chance plays an important part in the constant forward movement of Rolph’s imagery and career. For instance, the discovery of Twinwall came about by chance: the artist caught sight of it in a Rome hardware shop at the same time his mind was working on a solution to pictorial problems. The English language has a word to describe an encounter so lucky fate might have planned it. That word is happenstance.

Allied to Rolph’s remarkable technical skill and infectious enthusiasm for the messy, dumb potency of painting, happenstance has been the watch-word for a painter whose artistic drive has opened imaginative routes for British abstract painting in the new century.

London, February 2007
© Martin Holman