Daniel Grüttner

A new abstract expressionism: painting as a surprise journey

Works Bio

surprises and possibilities

With his paintings in the tradition of abstract expressionism, Daniel Grüttner invites us on a journey full of surprises: he creates a world of possibilities. The paintings form a cosmos, a space for freedom, in which we can move and wander around as we please, which we can explore. And as exciting as this journey is for us viewers, it is no less so for the artist: he wants to fathom the limits of painting, delves deep into the boundless horn of plenty of this art and asks: What is there in it that I can use? How far can I go?

Grüttner’s paintings are not “beautiful” in a traditional sense, the artist does not give much thought to style. His is a painting of brittleness, peppered with barbs. The pictures appear dirty, scratched, scattered, smudged, washed-out – and yet they are filled with poetry, they shine, they are full of vigor, joy and the desire to discover.

They are an extraordinary combination of painting and drawing. Sometimes the painterly seems to form the ground on which the drawing lines run like paths.Then again the lines delineate territories and the broad brush stroke is the “path”. The surprising, even exhilarating, sometimes downright foolhardy nature of the design is reminiscent of childish drawings that occasionally want to be stubbornly unsuccessful.

painting as adventure

For the artist, painting is an adventure that causes his heart to beat. It is not a “battle” between painter and picture, as it is the case with many other artists, it is rather an exchange, a dialogue. Painting, “it” does something to him, it arises from the ruthlessness towards himself. Daniel Grüttner surrenders himself completely to the substance and the act of painting.

The adventure lies in the fact that the outcome of this encounter is completely open – as the artist explains succinctly: “It can also go to hell. Sometimes it’s light-footed, then it flies away like that, sometimes it goes terribly wrong.” Then there’s the question: “How can I use something totally unsuccessful and make something out of it?” One picture’s title sums up this open, exciting situation perfectly: “The further I go the less I know”.

Daniel Grüttner, abstract expressionism, busche-kunst.com
Works in progress: paintings and sculptures in Daniel Grüttner’s studio

His paintings, says the artist, should simply be there, laconic and succinct, without “coolness” or pretentiousness. Painting is something very natural to him, like breathing. Yet an existentialist component is unmistakable, and the line of tradition of this art is obvious: Grüttner refers to the painting of the late 1940s and 1950s.

This applies to American Abstract Expressionism with artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and Philip Guston, as well as to Europeans such as the Cobra painters or, in Germany, Wilhelm Nay, also the body paintings by Maria Lassnig. For the younger generation Grüttner names his academy teacher Siegfried Anzinger, Günther Förg and Kurt Kocherscheidt as peers. But, not to be forgotten: the line of tradition also extends to the melancholy life pictures of Edward Munch and the (sometimes weird) symbolism of James Ensor.

the human body

Daniel Grüttner emphasizes that he also produces smaller paintings, but the majority are created in large format: a standard size is 200 x 160 cm. He can handle this size well, with outstretched arms he can easily reach the far corners of the canvas. The format corresponds approximately to the field of action of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”.

The physicality, the movements and sensations of the artist himself play a prominent role in this painting. But Grüttner has yet another reference to the human body. Before he came to art, he studied medicine for a few semesters, and this very special experience of encountering the human body has a decisive influence on his art. It is certainly no coincidence that the painter Grüttner also makes smaller sculptures that are formed with his hands.

Abstract art is so natural to us today that it is easy to forget how long and difficult the path to an art form was, which left behind the millennia-old task of representing the world figuratively. When Kandinsky took this arduous path, representational relics of the real world were still present in his paintings for a long time, until he finally arrived at complete abstraction. Something similar happened in New York in the late 1940s: the painters of Abstract Expressionism bit by bit left figuration behind until they arrived at the mere gestural form.

Daniel Gruettner busche-kunst.com
Daniel Grüttner’s works in our exhibition Painterly Abstractions: The Grand Gesture

Traces of reality

Relics of these processes are also present in Daniel Grüttner’s painting. To avoid any misunderstandings: this is abstract art without any ifs and buts. And yet: Grüttner’s bodily experiences as a medical student, the sculptures that emerge alongside the painting, the associations of “space” and “path”: this makes a short bow to the real world as we know it – even if only in symbolic form.

It’s certainly no coincidence that abstract signs of arbitrary objects have been appearing in the paintings lately; they are ciphers that only the artist understands, but which emphasize the proximity to reality. Significantly, Grüttner cites the Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning as a special role model: he is the only one from the group of action painters who never completely abandoned the figure.

Even though we – like the artist – speak of cosmos and spaces: the flat surface is always important, because, as Daniel Grüttner emphasizes: painting takes place in the surface. “I don’t think of spaces, I think of surfaces.” He has a “longing for very flat painting”. This too is a game, an adventure: going in the surface – and out again. Because that’s his question: how do you get out of something? If it succeeds, that is the moment of freedom.


Four of Daniel Grüttner’s paintings can be seen in our exhibitions Painterly Abstractions: The Grand Gesture and Landscape, so Beautiful!. For more information please see the photographic walk through the artist’s studio in “visit my tent” and the artist’s profiles on Instagram and Facebook.

If you like these paintings you might also be interested in other artists in this online gallery: ter Hell, Forster Herchenbach, Nicholas Kashian, Marina Roca Die, Janes Haid-Schmallenberg, Christine Krämer, Victoria Pidust, Aaron Rahe and Juliette Sturlèse.



Daniel Grüttner was born 1979 in Rotenburg an der Wümme, he lives and works in Berlin

2002-2008Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Prof. Siegfried Anziger
2009-2011Artist in Residence, Kunststiftung Starke, Berlin
 2012-2014Teaching position at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
2018Artist in Residence, CCA Andratx, Mallorca

Exhibitions (S=Solo)

2020De rerum natura – Über die Natur der Dinge, Projektraum Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin
2019Prima la musica poi le parole, Kleiner von Wiese, Berlin (S)
Wer kann, der soll, Kunstgruppe Köln
Farbrausch. Eine Feldstudie, Kleiner von Wiese, Berlin
2018NaNaNaNa, CCA Andraxt, Majorca
Youtoo, Kunstgruppe Köln
2017Runter von den Marmorklippen, Kwadrat, Berlin
Wahnsinn, Kunstgruppe Köln
Outdoor Sculptures, Deweer Gallery, Otegem
Dem Frühling entgegen, Bourouina Gallery, Berlin
2016Ida Gerhardi Fördergalerie, Städtische Galerie, Lüdenscheid
Malerei, Bourouina Gallery, Berlin (S)
The Snoring Princess, Kunstgruppe Köln
2015abc, Bourouina Gallery, Berlin (S)
Undercover, Bourouina Gallery, Berlin
20 Jahre Kunstgruppe, Kunstgruppe Köln
2014Privat, Melanie Volkmann, Berlin
Berlin Art Prize, Kühlhaus, Berlin
Aus dem Fundus der botanischen Semantik, Cruise & Callas, Berlin
Romantica, Emotional Rescue Shows, Stuttgarter Platz, Berlin
On and on and on, Kunstgruppe Köln
2013Nordwestkunst 2013, Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven
Die Nominierten des Richard Bampi Preises, Grassi Museum, Leipzig
17/13, Kunstgruppe Köln
Vom Hier und Jetzt, Kunstverein Hannover
2012German Kleinformat, pilot-projekt, Düsseldorf
Manuela Wossowski und Freunde, Galerie Anna Klinkhammer, Düsseldorf
2011Poison Heart, Glarie Clasing, Münster
22/03/2011, Skalitzer_140 temporary, Berlin
Artist in Residence Show, Stiftung Starke, Berlin (S)
Summen Spüren, sk_140 temporary, Berlin
2010…und immer fehlt mir etwas, und das quält mich…, Salon Schmitz, Cologne
Düsseldorf, Forgotten Bar, Galerie im Regierungsviertel, Berlin
Sonderschicht, Kunstverein Oberhausen
Generationen II, Kunsthalle Brennabor, Brandenburg/Havel
2009Bier, Raab Galerie, Berlin
2008Down to Instinct, Galerie 61, Bielefeld
Anonyme Zeichner, Kunstraum Bethanien, Berlin
2007Bye, bye, Acapulco, Acapulco, Düsseldorf
…und immerfehlt mir etwas, und das quält mich… Werkstadt Graz
2006Bilder, Galerie Sammler, Leipzig
Düsseldorf im Juni, Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna
Bretter, die die Welt bedeuten, Acapulco, Düsseldorf
Wunderland, WGZ Bank, Düsseldorf
2005unrein, temporärer Ausstellungsraum, Leipzig
Nr. 3, Bar Ornella, Cologne