Daniel Gonçalves: Squaring the Circle

Daniel Gonçalves: Squaring the Circle

First published: Spring 2019

Self-taught artist Daniel Gonçalves talks about what he wants to convey with his intricate drawings

Their strict geometricity can evoke implacable, uncompromising images: the graven metal doors of a bank vault, the cryptic symbology of masonic regalia, bitcoin iconography. At the same time, their almost supernatural symmetries can work like tantric images, like mandalas, as an inducement to and a focus of contemplation. Their patterning suggests the “mobility” of Art Deco whirligig motifs, and modernist works of vortices. For all the associations they might trigger, the works are supremely accomplished, masterfully complete and unique in themselves.

2018, ink on paper, 28 x 39 in. / 70 x 100 cm

The vectors, radials, row-and-column matrices and tessellations, halos, suns, eyes and wheels-within-wheels are all generated not by algorithms but by a single human – or superhuman – draughtsman, the hallucinatory designs painstakingly executed on paper with pen and India ink. “I use archetypes from our collective unconsciousness. I hope to convey purity, accuracy, perfection, balance, and forward that energy to the viewers, based on elements that are common to all. For instance, the circle is represented everywhere around the world and it can be the sun, the moon, the earth, magic eyes, cells, the womb, the mandala, the universe… “, explains the artist, Portuguese Daniel Gonçalves.

Entirely self-taught, he was first brought to public attention by the Cruzes Canhoto gallery in Porto, where his work was initially exhibited in 2016. Then, in 2017, he also participated in an exhibition at the Oliva Creative Factory in Portugal. Most recently, pieces of his have been exhibited in galleries in France, the US and the UK, and at the Outsider Art Fair in New York in 2019.

He explains that his creations were not always so systematic: “They used to be more organic and over time have become more geometric because of my idea – my obsession – that they have to be perfect or at least close to perfection. My drawings have evolved from something more figurative and colourful towards something more based on black and white, more abstract, assuming perhaps more symbolism through geometric, minimalistic elements such as circles, triangles, arches.”

Gonçalves can be forgiven for wanting to find order and perfection. Born in Porto in 1977, one of five brothers, he endured a troubled – almost Dickensian – upbringing at the hands of a father who gambled, drank and had a violent temperament. However, his father was a highly skilled carpenter and gave Gonçalves an appreciation and respect for manual work, and for drawing something beautiful out of unpromising raw material. “I think that was the only decent thing I inherited from him. The capacity to improvise and create”, the artist says.

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #101