Simple, quotidian moments inform the artwork of painter Dan Climan. Born in Montreal, he received his BFA from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada. His paintings depict the familiar-feeling that touch on themes of escapism in a brief, concise plot that often has no resolution. Dan uses precise lines and exact forms, a skill honed through his almost decade long background as a tattooer and graphic designer.
We visited his studio in Montreal to talk about his creative practice, graphic design influences and connection to nostalgic moments.
I try to paint for about eight hours a day, six days a week. I treat my art like a full-time job—wake up, get to the studio, put in the work. Being consistent is when you find your relationship with your materials and when you make the most breakthroughs. And now, that I think back on it, I’ve been drawing, painting or creating something almost every day of my life.
This feeling of getting away while being watched reoccurs throughout my work —
the subject feels distant but the viewer’s perspective still feels close.
I look to photographs from the 1950s and '60s for inspiration. I find the work of Fred Herzog to be essential. He was documenting Vancouver at a very aesthetically pleasing time. Cars were made of steel, clothes had little to no branding, and advertising brought a mixture of bold fonts and open space. The sensibility and simplicity of this era speaks to my natural sense of color.
A lack of texture is on purpose in my paintings. It’s a moment to depict the evocative side of colours, and when combined with the subject, allow the viewer to draw from their own imagination or memory. I look to nostalgic items, whether it be an old radiator, a vintage garage door or a barn in a desert sunset—common scenes where details and texture aren’t always necessary to really feel what you’re looking at.
Think of the graphic elements printed on a pack of vintage matches—the brand’s logo in a big, bold, often cursive font and the address written underneath in small lettering are printed onto a simple background. If you read the name of one of these vintage packs with no knowledge of the actual business, most likely an idea of what it looks like will pop into your mind and whether it's accurate or not is unimportant. It's based on your own experience. In my paintings, the landscape is the background and cars, dogs, or people are placed like the words on the matches. The subjects are familiar from one painting to the next, but each is placed in its own way to tell a different story. The way I layout compositions allow the viewer to decide their own narrative.
The romance of getting into a truck and driving off into a beautiful landscape is a daydream that I often have. With the current state of the world, everyone wants to escape in one way or another. But as much as we are trying to get away, we’re always being monitored and our personal information is being collected with our every move. This feeling of getting away while being watched reoccurs throughout my work—the subject feels distant but the viewer’s perspective still feels close.
What's next? I want to drive my truck across the country, drop in on some friends, and visit some spots that aren't going to be around forever.