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Daniel Rey

Daniel Rey is a multidisciplinary artist working across painting, performance and video.

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03.06.2024

Artist profile

Artwork

In his artistic practice, Daniel Rey explores how architecture relates to the human body, and the ways in which we inhabit a space - be it a city, our home or a swimming pool. Born in Caracas, Venezuela and residing in London, Daniel works across painting, performance and video. Building on his personal experience, Rey’s performative installations disrupt conventional depictions of the male body, explore themes of cultural hybridity and migration, and reclaim space for queer individuals . “In my practice, I explore how the concepts of masculinity, queerness and nostalgia connect to our built environment,” says Daniel. “These themes are inspired by my upbringing in Venezuela where there is a strong machismo culture embedded in society.”


As for many artists, Rey’s route to creative freedom was not a straightforward one: prior to obtaining an MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, he studied architecture in Venezuela. “Inspired by Italo Calvino's poetic view of the built environment in his book Invisible Cities, I pursued architecture,” explains Daniel,  “but due to the constraints of the field I wasn’t able to express myself and I transitioned to fine art. However, even as an artist, I work like an architect: I make a plan, create a structure, and proceed in an organised way. I feel like this structure binds my practice together.”


Regularly incorporating industrial materials into his installations - including everyday appliances from DIY shops - Rey utilises architectural methods as subtle metaphors for constructing and reclaiming space for queer bodies. In ‘Why Do Swimmers Suddenly Appear’, an installation and performance set against a swimming pool-like structure where swimmers defiantly pose on diving platforms, Daniel emphasises how certain activities and sites convey normative ideas about gender and masculinity. “I was interested in subverting the dynamics of a swimming competition - where there’s testosterone, rivalry, and demonstrations of masculinity - into something more evocative, and sensitive,” he notes. Vulnerability and tenderness is also at the centre of Collective Cuddles, a performative installation of five men gently embracing each other on what he calls a “cuddling platform”. Actively engaging spectators as participants, the piece prompts the audience to “imagine a world where male bodies can connect through the tender act of touch – a gesture of healing and of connection” explains Rey. His two dimensional works like Macho Glitch, also critique patriarchal structures and the notion of the machismo prevalent in Rey’s native Latin America and worldwide, by “mapping and mimicking pejorative words used in Spanish speaking countries for LGBTQ people.”


Traces of Daniel’s heritage also appear in his work in the context of nostalgia: banana leaves and references to the sea and the tropics are recurring elements of his practice. His video installation, Citizen of the Nation Swallowed by the Sea, that received the Maison/0 The Earth Award in 2023, is a fictional dystopia transporting the viewer to a future where, due to the rising sea levels, countries begin to disappear. It is inspired by Daniel’s personal experience of the catastrophic flooding in Venezuela in 1999, as a result of which he and his family lost their home. “As a foreigner from Venezuela, a country with the second largest migration crises at the moment, I am part of a diaspora,” he explains. “This idea of a home that doesn't exist has always been haunting me, partly because queer individuals are often compelled to flee at least twice: first, from their country, and then from their home, where they are often not accepted.” Drawing on collective and personal experiences of migration and queerness, Daniel constantly carves out spaces, both literally and figuratively, where vulnerability, nostalgia and togetherness can find refuge.


Rey’s work has been exhibited at the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2023, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, and Camden Art Centre. He also had a solo show in 2023 at The Koppel Project. Most recently, Daniel has just finished working on a commissioned underwater installation, a painting in the pool of Villa Chamoun in Lebanon, as part of the KDSHA Art Narratives Residency.

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Why Do Swimmers Suddenly Appear

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Macho Glitch

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