Fresh off his recent art exhibit wherein his work was featured alongside the legendary Salvador Dali, blue-chip artist, fine-art curator, and awarded entrepreneur, Sir Daniel Winn, took some time to talk with us about the inspiration behind his work, the importance of helping your fellow man, and how he became a knight.
I know you just wrapped a joint art exhibit at the esteemed Shanghai Art Museum featuring your work and Salvador Dali’s. What was that experience like?
The experience was surreal. I was very honored to have the exhibition with Dali, especially since he’s a very famous surrealist artist who has been passed away for a while. Very few contemporary artists are able to exhibit with a non-living master. I felt very honored to have an opportunity you get to exhibit with such a great master. The experience was very humbling but also very exciting at the same time. And exhibiting in Asia in Shanghai at such a prestigious museum was really exciting too.
Do you feel there are any artistic parallels in your style to Dali’s?
Yes, I think there are parallels both technically and symbolically. Technically, I think we’re both skilled, oil-on-canvas masters, and I also – as a tribute to him – created more of the melting clock and iconic images that Dali created. In terms of symbolism, there’s definitely some parallels in style too. He uses more of the id and the ego and Freudian subconscious mind and dreams, whereas my style is of a surrealistic dreamlike surrealism that is existential. My works are based on dreams – my dreams – and what I consider to be epiphanies of understanding universal truth. Whereas Dali tries to understand the human psyche, I try to understand the human condition in terms of what our place is in the universe. In a sense, we’re both trying to figure out who we are; one is much more specific in terms of our psyche, which is Dali, and mine is – in terms understanding universal truth – much more wide range. So in a way, it is similar that I am channeling his particular message in what I want to communicate in my overall message in my philosophy.
You were knighted and hold the official title of Sir Daniel K. Winn. Can you tell us a little more about receiving such an honor and how it came to be?
I received the knighthood based on the recognition of my philanthropic works. With my background, going through a lot of turmoil and turbulence in life, I’ve seen a lot of less fortunate people. I wanted to make sure they didn’t feel what I felt in terms of not being so fortunate. So a decade ago I decided to help as much as I could with orphanages and the elderly homes. I am not here to save the world, but I can do what I feel could be best. I met the son of Prince Waldemar of Schaumburg-Lippe-Nachod from Germany. His son was attending a lot of events. He saw me attending a lot of charities, so he began to research me. He spoke to me and wanted to get my information to give it to his father to vet me. About a year later they granted me the title of Knighthood for my philanthropic work and my success as an artist. I don’t really consider myself successful, but I’m glad that they do. The father and the mother, the Prince and the Princess, flew in from Germany to knight me on December 23, 2018.
You had an unconventional path to becoming an artist. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I did not pursue or study art as a career. I studied medicine to become a reconstructive surgeon. And it just happened that when I graduated, I decided to leave the profession to pursue my career as an artist. For a couple of years, I was successful, and because of that I had collectors that wanted to invest. They wanted to open an agency to represent other artists to help make them more famous as more of a commodity and making sure that their investment was sound. I decided to take that opportunity, but by doing so had to put my dream aside for the next couple decades. My focus became ensuring that the artists we represented at our company, Masterpiece Publishing, were successful and became blue-chip [artists]. So for almost 20 years I sacrificed my dream to live out other artists’ dreams. At the same time, it was bittersweet in the sense that I learned a lot – a lot of connections with museums and collectors, networking, learning the art industry and business. Then about 3 1/2 years ago, when I turned 50, I decided to start creating and pursuing my dream that I had given up on. Because of my experience representing artists, my connections had expanded and given me such a catalyst to enhance my career as an artist. Artists would dream to be where I am, because it would take them decades or sometimes even half a century to be where I am right now. So my success was based on my sacrifice. By giving up my dream for others, in a way, it came back to me tenfold.
Where do you find inspiration as an artist?
My inspiration comes in from my life experience, my interactions with people, my experience as a refugee, the political climate, the environmental climate, suffering, happiness, joy – the entire experience – even my studies in philosophy, psychology, and medicine. Everything about my inspiration comes from my background, my relationships, my passion, and life. But also I see others, and see through their eyes and their soul and spirit. I see not only their pain and suffering, but also their joy and happiness. And because of that I get inspired through my dreams. I want to communicate is what universal truth is, what true happiness is, and what our place is in this universe. So in a way my inspiration is constantly derived from the energy surrounding me in nature, people, and the surroundings. The human emotion and my emotions are what are really significant.
Can you choose a favorite painting of yours and tell us about the meaning behind it?
That’s like asking, “Which is your favorite child?” They’re all favorites. They all communicate a message in a language that goes beyond words. But if I had to choose one I would say “Legacy.” It’s almost like a self-portrait. It’s the one of me holding my hand out with feathers falling on my hand. It was a very personal piece because I created that right after my father passed away. It’s based on my emotion of feeling almost like an orphan. Feeling very alone. It represents a legacy that’s passed down to me. Not necessarily about my father, but more like an understanding about what a legacy is because I have no children, no progeny, and no one to carry on this legacy. My legacy is my artwork. The feathers represent wisdom from the bird. And birds represent, symbolically, knowledge. So it’s knowledge that has been passed on to me by the universe. I am embracing that knowledge on my journey in this world and the universe. Ultimately I can give that knowledge to the world to help understand what universal truth is – what love, sadness, life and death are all about. It’s part of our existence. It’s not necessarily good or bad; it is life, which we need to embrace to really move forward. “Legacy” represents life and death, my future, mortality, existence, but also everyone’s existence, as well as my place on this world and universe and what I need to accomplish. And my message for others is to do what they need to accomplish in their life and their existence, and what they need to embrace.
You’re also the curator of your Beverly Hills gallery. What do you look for as a curator?
I look for continuity, consistency and a complete history. When I curate at the gallery or for a museum, the process and the methodology that I use has to create a story. It has to have an understanding from A to Z, not just something that is there and is beautiful. It has to have a message going from one message to the next, or one era to the next. You talk about, let’s say, Picasso – whether it’s the Blue Period – there’s a certain period of time. And when you curate that, even da Vinci, there’s a period of time. There are emotions, a series events, a history of an artist’s life or existence. When I curate it has to make sense going from one stage to the next – a flow so that when a person walks in there’s almost like a chi, an energy that guides you. A history of that artist’s method of thinking, from one step to the next, so that hopefully the viewer will understand and get into the mind and soul that artist, or mine.
Philanthropy is very close to your heart. What would you want people to know about getting involved in charities?
That philanthropy is not just for philanthropy’s sake and for others. When you do philanthropy, actually, what you’re doing is for yourself too. I feel almost guilty sometimes because I feel so good. I feel so blessed to be able to have the opportunity to do something for others. I thank the people that I’m able to help, because what they’re doing is they’re giving me a joy that I cannot have otherwise if I were not able to help them. So my message to others is to embrace what you do for others because you will experience the amazing feeling of accomplishment and self-worth and your place in the universe. To truly help humankind and yourself at the same time.
What’s coming up for you in 2020?
Exciting things, particularly a lot of museum exhibitions. There’s a Picasso exhibition this fall. And I’m in Asia right now working with a sanctuary where artists and philosophers and musicians go. I was invited to. They just opened this amazing sanctuary, and I’m opening it up with them in April with my exhibition as their first exhibition. I’m also curating, and so going to be traveling a lot. And I have a lot of people in the media and elsewhere who want to understand the existential surrealism of my work. So I’m excited to share that vision with the world in 2020 in a major museum.
For more information on Sir Daniel Winn and Winn Slavin, please visit danielwinnartist.com and winnslavin.com.
You can follow Sir Daniel on Instagram at: @sirdanielwinn (https://www.instagram.com/sirdanielwinn/).
Originally posted on The Hype Magazine.