Danni Durai lives in Brighton, UK, between the South Downs and the sea, with her son and labrador. She was born in Poona in 1970 and has lived in Doha, Burgess Hill, Jakarta, Aix-en-Provence and Nassau.
After studying Art and French (Joint Hons BA) at Aberystwyth, she did her PGCE in Primary Education at Exeter where she specialised in Art. Having taught in primary schools in Brighton and the Bahamas for over 10 years, she is now giving her full attention to being an artist.
Aside from painting, Danni makes and sells wire sculptures of figures and reindeer and other gifts during the run up to Christmas. In recent years she spent some time learning about ceramics and handbuilt a series of Brighton beach huts during lockdown.
Danni enjoys learning how to make things: adding to her creative skills and using them to design a wide variety of useful and decorative objects for her home.
In my painting, I use overlapping watercolours on paper to create colour harmonies, with very simple geometric compositions. I am inspired by modern design and the paring down of minimalism. My sense of colour comes from the shot silks of my mother's saris and the effect of two colours woven together as well as my local environment.
When I began to study art, I was drawn to Abstract Expressionism and Kandinsky's abstract painting relating to music as well as Paul Klee's watercolour compositions. I began by painting in oils: shades of blue and green separated and ordered by black lines in compositions that mixed Rothko's expressionism with simple, sometimes Bauhaus-like compositions. I had not found how to paint what I wanted to look at. All my feelings about growing up and being bullied came leaking out and I did not like the way they looked.
Then I lived in the Bahamas: blue and green blended to an intense turquoise was in the sea all around me. I turned to watercolours and finally found a way to express what I felt and make paintings that made my eyes happy. I could now paint translucent layers of colours overlapping each other.
The compositions are still simple because what I want to show you is the beauty of certain colours together, be that by overlapping them translucently or letting one bleed into another. Now that I am more confident in myself and my painting I am able to be more free and my paintings have less of a planned structure. They are all about the colours, how they interact with each other and the response that evokes in the viewer.
In early 2022, I started to paint the colours of the lichen that kept catching my eye on my daily dog walks in my local area. I hadn't painted much for a while, concentrating on wire sculpture and designing instead. I had also been doing a lot of self help courses (to overcome the lingering effects of being bullied as a child) and came across Michelle Lloyd (Your Art Matters/Kickstart your art). Her advice for finding inspiration was to notice what your eyes are drawn to.
I concentrated on the lichen I saw on trees and bushes when out walking the dog. I photographed it, researched it in the library and on the internet, picked up samples from the ground and began to realise how much there was to the world of Lichenology. The first thing I learnt was that the shades of grey-green and light green I saw in patches on branches were a mixture of varieties. I found out that it was Maritime Sunburst lichen (Xanthoria parietina), varying in hue from grey to green to yellow and the bright gold that first caught my eye, almost glowing in the sunlight against a blue sky.
I worked in my sketchbook, trying to identify the watercolour pigments to use and then explored how to go about painting it. I ended up following two paths.
The first technique I used was layering translucent shapes in different hues in a composition that grew how I imagined the lichen might grow; it being a symbiosis of fungi, algae and bacteria.
The second approach I took was to use the same hues in a very wet and uncontrolled way, allowing the watercolour blooms to denote blooms of lichen; especially the blooms of lichen that appear on the pavement. In these paintings I have limited my palette to the colours of lichen but added more contrast by using darker shades and keeping a wet road surface splotched with white and gold lichen in mind.