Danny Hermann’s interplay between beautiful facades and social criticism

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On 24 April, Danny Hermann will celebrate the opening of his exhibition “WELTUNTER” at the Full Moon Gallery. The exhibition navigates through the turbulence of a modern era in transition. In this interview Hermann provides fascinating insights into sources of inspiration, the central motifs of his art, and his critical approach to his artistic work.


What are the main inspirations for your art?

The first one is topics and the second one is artists.

I am most interested in artificial intelligence, social media, and nature conservation. However, I also paint non-sociocritical themes such as landscapes.

Regarding sociocritical themes, I engage directly with the topic and strive to have an impact; change people’s thinking, raise awareness, and draw attention to issues.

With landscape paintings, I am looking for harmony. I want to paint beautiful pictures with interesting structures and colours.

My artistic inspirations are Chaim Soutine, Edvard Munch, Wolfgang Petrick, and Marianne von Werefkin. And of course my professor Ralf Kerbach.


Why are you addressing these themes in your art?

Social media is the first topic I have ever dealt with in art as it has affected me personally.

You have a lot of anonymity on social media, there’s a lot of hate, and bullying, but also constant social pressure. You mostly see people who are super successful and doing well. You always have to be online, you can’t miss anything. I especially criticise the effect that social media has on our way of thinking and acting.

I’m very active when it comes to environmental conservation. I take part in planting and clean-up actions. I am committed to protecting animals, especially those that are threatened with extinction. I once observed and painted a deer collecting rubbish in her nest. Disasters, radioactive waste, pollution such as oil in the sea, and the extinction of species. I want to draw attention to this.


And what about artificial intelligence?

It’s basically always criticism. The landscape paintings are beautiful works, there’s no criticism, people should be happy about them. But when it comes to artificial intelligence, I’m primarily concerned with deep fakes. Things that non-experts can do at the touch of a button. It’s easy nowadays to do art through artificial intelligence and it is becoming more and more common – this is just the beginning. It’s scary to think about what’s to come. That’s what I work on in my artworks; to draw attention to the fact that you can’t just accept anything as fact nowadays.


Does that explain the title ‘WELTUNTER’ for the exhibition?

‘WELTUNTER’ almost stands for the apocalypse, which is very grim. The title refers to everything in a nutshell. The wars, the fact that you never know what the next day will bring, whether something big will happen, the environmental disasters. Everything becomes more distant, especially people themselves. This is expressed in this title.


How did you select the works for your exhibition at the Full Moon Gallery?

I tried to choose something from each theme to show the diversity of motifs. My overall concept is one of inside and outside, of facade and truth. At the Full Moon Gallery, we have the advantage of being able to exhibit outside in the shop windows and inside. In the shop windows, I want to show a surface, a beautiful facade – with landscape paintings and drawings. Inside, there are the more sinister pictures.

So, I plan that people see the surface first and they are only confronted with the truth when they enter the room.


What about the landscape pictures – which places do you capture there?

That depends on where I am at the time. I don’t paint from home, but mostly on site. I go there specifically with the easel and paint. I mainly paint Dresden motifs because I live here. It’s important for me to capture nature as it is. Directly on site and not from a photo. When I have a photo, it’s already fixed. The angle is fixed, and the subject is fixed. A picture is not painted in an hour; you can see how the sun sets. So I can also paint in different shadow elements.


Do you see social criticism as the artists’ role?

In the end, every artist defines their own role. Some simply want to paint beautiful pictures that make people happy, and that’s a good thing. If you only paint depressive pictures, everyone is depressed – you need to be happy too.

That’s why I also paint landscapes. If all I did all day was social criticism, I would go mad. I need this variety, this change. Sometimes I only paint landscapes for half a year because I need this time off.

But for me, I see the purpose of art as making a difference. I see art as a medium to express oneself, and to draw attention to problems in the world. I always try to keep it as neutral as possible. I depict my observations in the picture from a neutral perspective.

I hope that the viewer will have an inner dialogue about the subject. So that they think about what they can change themselves, and what they have already changed. Because the themes I paint affect everyone.


What are your future goals as an artist?

To be a successful artist. That is my profession and my calling. But I’m happy when I can achieve something through my art. When I paint and someone makes a note of it. I paint to demonstrate something, to represent something, to make a difference in the world. That’s why I hope that my art will be preserved in order to create something lasting in the world.


The interview was conducted by Lena Gerdes.