Sir Daniel Winn has gained international recognition for his fine art. The painter and sculptor is a blue-chip artist whose work sits alongside that of the legendary Salvador Dali in the Shanghai Art Museum.
He was also officially knighted by the house of Schaumburg-Lippe-Nachod in 2018, by which he was awarded the title “Sir.” He is one of only five of the family’s recipients of this prestigious honor.
Winn is also a philanthropist who has raised over $2 million in aid for both Asia and the U.S.A. And his art is a reflection of the kind of person he is. It speaks a clear message about love and legacy; there is depth to his work that one has to see to believe.
In the conversation below, we get the backstory behind the artist himself, and some of his most prolific work.
Here’s what Sir Daniel Winn had to say to us about his road to the top of the art industry.
Monsters and Critics: I wanted to go back to the beginning and get to know you as a person and learn how you came to pursue art. From what I understand, it wasn’t always the easiest journey. I know there was also some self-discovery along the way. Could you explain to me the story of how you got into art to begin with?
Sir Daniel Winn: I’ve always had an artistic nature; I wanted to create. My background is actually in medicine. I studied to become a reconstructive surgeon. I went to college, and when I graduated, I decided to change my direction to become an artist. I gave up my whole entire profession as a reconstructive surgeon to become an artist.
As an artist, I struggled, but I did sell, so I made enough to open a small gallery in Laguna Beach. When I was in Laguna Beach, I was doing business for a couple of years and I did extremely well. So an investor acquired my work and wanted to invest in me and wanted me to help create an agency that represented artists that make a footprint.
So I decided to do that for the next 20 years. I didn’t realize that, by doing that, there was no way that I would have time at all for my dream of becoming an artist. I had to put my dreams as an artist on hold for over two decades.
Three years ago, when I turned 50, is when I decided to come back and continue my endeavor because I had already put 20 years plus into helping other artists become successful, become blue-chip museum artists. So I wanted to do it myself.
Taking all that time off of my own art was a bittersweet experience: it was bitter in the sense that I had to give up my dream; I had to put it on hold. But it was sweet in the sense that the two decades that I had to sacrifice gave me a lot of experience and networking and connections to various museum execs in the industry. This was incredibly priceless.
Because of that, when I became an artist again three years ago, I was catapulted to a place that, were it not for my experience as a catalyst, would not have been possible.
M&C: So, for those 20-some years, were you taking in your surroundings and formulating your sense of artistic identity? What was that time like for you?
Winn: My artistic ability was so bottled up. But at the same time, I was helping all these artists to succeed. A lot of my ideas were given to them. In a way, I was their mentor and tutor. But I think because I did that, it gave me a lot of creativity and ideas that were added to my collection, which came out three years ago.
By the time my work came out, it was much more cohesive and understandable because, if I did not do what I did for those other artists, I would not be as good as I am today. In a way, I was prepping myself without realizing it.
M&C: Could you explain to me your artistic philosophy of existential surrealism?
Winn: Yes. In college, before I went to medical school, I took several courses in philosophy, and it really intrigued me, the study about the reason why we’re here. My favorite philosopher is Rene Descartes. And of course, I also liked John Paul Sartre, who talks about existentialism.
So my way of trying to communicate what my philosophy is — instead of writing or communicating verbally — is that I want to create both paintings and sculptures as a visual language so people can understand what I’m trying to communicate about why we are here.
What is the reason we are here? What is the purpose for us being here? I want to explain that and express that through my art. I coined it existential surrealism because I want to share with people our purpose in life.
M&C: There are two pieces of yours, in particular, that caught my eye: Beyond and Beyond Enigma. When I looked at these pictures, I felt like what you were portraying is that there’s more than what meets the eye. It seemed like you were trying to portray the unseen. Is that true?
Winn: Yes, absolutely. After people see the first layer of beauty in my art, I’m hoping that they will stand there and observe the second, third, fourth, fifth — as deep a layer as they want to see in the piece.
M&C: I’d like to take a moment and discuss your sculpture pieces, such as Enlightened Metamorphosis of Eve. Where do you draw you inspiration from for those style pieces?
Winn: When I paint on canvas, it’s two dimensional. The sculpture that you’re talking about, that’s three dimensional. The reason I do three-dimensional pieces is for two purposes: number one is that you can actually touch and feel the marble and the bronze. Number two, I’m creating sculptures out of marble and bronze and stainless steel and granite.
There are four completely different materials that I’m combining as one. In essence, that is philosophical symbolism. The reason I do that is because it’s all one and the same. Marble is made up of stone, which is made up of dust, which is what we become when we die. We become dust. We become part of the marble.
On the other hand, bronze is a man-made material that is found in the elements of the earth. Granite is the same as marble. And stainless steel, again, is material that is found in this world that is borrowed matter, whether it’s organic or inorganic.
So the purpose of my sculptures is to represent that we are part of this. When we leave this world, and we leave this earth, we are still here. We may not be here physically or organically, but we are here spiritually and energy-wise.
But in terms of the physicalness, you’re seeing the bronze and the marble and that’s who we are. People ask, “Why the mask?” And, “Why the horn?” The mask represents a journey in life. And the journey in life is just an organic vessel.
The journey is not just temporary, for a hundred years; our journey is infinite in time, in space, and in the universe. And I use the horn because the old masters used the horn to represent immortality.
What I want to communicate is that we are all immortal, whether organically or inorganically. Organically, we are physically mortal for about a hundred years. But when we leave this world, we are still immortal because what we leave behind are our energies of the universe, which are infinite and timeless. We’re always here.
M&C: If you had to define it, what do you feel like your life message is?
Winn: My life message is that life is very brief and fleeting. It is not about what you can acquire in this world; it’s about what you leave behind. I’m not talking about the legacy of materialistic objects or your legacy of DNA — of your children or offspring. What I’m talking about is what you leave behind in terms of deeds: your actions, your kindness, and how you affect others.
M&C: Are you currently working on any new art pieces that are set to be released in the near future?
Winn: Yes, actually, I am. For the last three years, I have done a body of work that went from Metamorphosis to Transformation to Legacy to Evolution. My next series is going to be called Genesis: A New Beginning.
I work on each collection as if it were a thesis of that chapter of my life message. The first thesis was Metamorphosis, which represented me being transformed from a cocoon to a butterfly. Then it went to Transformation, where I was being transformed into a true artist. Then I went into Legacy and explored what I wanted to leave behind. Then the next concept I did was Evolution — taking a look at how I have already evolved from three years ago to now.
Evolution is my latest collection. Now, since Evolution is done, my next series is called Genesis.