Aesthetica Art Prize 2016 Longlist: Daniel Mullen. Painting and Drawing

Daniel Mullen is a longlisted artist in the Aesthetica Art Prize, and his work will be published in the Aesthetica Art Prize Annual this spring. Mullen has described the backbone of his artistic influence as a mixture of Dutch architecture and formalistic, abstract painting. Given the preoccupation with space, or rather the emptiness of space, in Mullen’s own work and ideas, it is not surprising that architect Gerrit Rietveld, a leader of the De Stijl movement, held a critical role in the development of his aesthetic and imagery. Mullen has always sought to establish a sense of transparent weightlessness to his paintings, “the scale (of which) is left to the imagination of the viewer.” While his paintings therefore possess a certain surface reality, the entirety of their structure is impossible to fully realise.

These themes are epitomised in Mullen’s Monument to the Future, the longlisted piece in the Aesthetica Art Prize. At first glance, Mullen’s use of bold colour and domination of space evokes a sense architectural structure, stability, strength. It is only upon further inspection that we notice how thin and translucent the painting is, the strength of the piece giving way to a sense of fragility and instability. We realise that our first impression was an illusion all along, and in doing so, Mullen challenges our very idea of perception. As he puts it: “I paint the illusion of the illusion, like the shadows on the wall in the analogy of Plato’s cave”.

The Aesthetica Art Prize 2016 is now open for entries, accepting submissions across a range of media including photography, sculpture, installation, painting and artists’ film. Prizes include £5,000 courtesy of Hiscox, group exhibition, publication in 100 contemporary artists, £250 art supplies vouchers courtesy of Winsor & Newton and art books courtesy of Prestel. Selected artists are also showcased on Aesthetica’s online channels.

For more information and to enter the Aesthetica Art Prize 2016, visit

1. Daniel Mullen, Monument to the Future (2015). Courtesy of the artist and the Aesthetica Art Prize.