Artist Spotlight: Daniel Diaz-Tai

ddt-blogFew people can say that bad handwriting led them to art. But it was the memory of his father’s handwriting assignments—page after page of calligraphic practice—that led to a breakthrough when Daniel Diaz-Tai was studying graphic design as an adult. A requisite calligraphy class was “a very boring form of déjà vu,” Diaz-Tai remembered. During a homework assignment, however, he realized that he could use the skill to enhance his work.

And since then, Diaz-Tai’s painting has maintained the textual influences of calligraphy. But even that has a twist: Diaz-Tai has developed a discourse among his three native tongues, English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Rather than translating, he abstracts the three languages, using the interplay of their forms to “express itself through a medium that has no specific language.” In these calligraphic works, he approaches each letter individually, seeking to release its energy through careful craft.

Successful enough to quit his graphic design day job, Diaz-Tai nonetheless maintains the graphic design philosophy “less is more” as well as his abiding interest in letterforms. He creates his current work without planning in order to facilitate “expression of [his] subconscious.” Layering ink, charcoal, and oil in shades of gray, he seeks to generate dynamism, to “make [the viewer’s] eyes move around the piece” as they try to read the fabricated script scrawled within the bounded space of the canvas. As in all art, people “see what they see.”

Audiences worldwide have appreciated Diaz-Tai’s explorations in language, and galleries have displayed them in Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, New York, Seoul, and Taipei, and of course, the Bay Area. He lives in San Francisco, where his work is on display at Dialecto Gallery.

As a gay man, Diaz-Tai feels drawn to AHP’s mission, calling it “personal for me,” and he has marked that synchronicity by donating to the auction for six years. This year, Diaz-Tai has donated a work called “Subconscious NO 77.16.” This mixed-media piece captures the moment of its own creation. And it’s the work of artists like Diaz-Tai that make Art for AIDS so important and powerful—and it’s only two weeks away!