Silke Otto-Knapp at Camden Arts Centre
Monday or Tuesday, is the title of the exhibition by Silke Otto-Knapp currently at the Camden Arts Centre in Hampstead. It is really worth a visit before it closes at the end of the month.
The title of the exhibition is taken from a short story by Virginia Woolf from 1921. The passage reproduced below gives the tone and mood of this exhibition: ‘Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains.’ – Virginia Wolf, Monday or Tuesday (1921).
The artist's concern with tonality is present throughout the exhibition. Dissolved grey, harsh black and white, the variations are infinite. Very much like Virginia Woolf’s description of the sky, Otto- Knapp is using black and grey pigments to portray how the sky 'moves and remains’. Her work is very atmospheric. There is a sense of movement, of space and profound silence in her landscapes. As pointed out in the file note accompanying the exhibition, for Otto-Knapp the motif in her work is "what remains". Through her personal technique, she develops a motif (trees, branches, the horizon, the moon...) by washing away layers of color on paper. This gives a feeling of transparency, mystery and contemplation. Her palette reduction contributes also to this effect of stillness and quietness.
Gallery 1 includes a series of her watercolor paintings such as‘The Stage (Night),2013’ with transparent branches, ‘The Stage ( moonlit), 2011’ showing a stage lit by an artificial moon-like light, ‘Seascape ( Eclipse and coastline), 2013’ with silvery tones, and ‘Group ( approaching), 2011’ displaying a group of dark silhouettes of dancers. Inspired by iconic images from the 20th century dance history, several of Otto-Knapp's paintings feature post-modern dance choreographer Anna Halprin’s outdoor deck, a stage built into the forest at her mountain home north of San Francisco.
"Three Seascapes" consists of a grid of 42 etchings made during her residency in an etching studio in Canada and built around three motifs. The same subject is treated differently, some features change and disappear in the process, the relationship between each of them shows the range of tones that the artist uses from light grey to nocturnal perfectly.
Gallery 2 shows paintings lighter in tone such as ‘Islands, 2013’ with the atmosphere of clouds in the sky. ‘Stage ( Les Biches), 2013’ and ‘Stage ( Girls in grey), 2013’ are based on images from a choreography by Bronislava Nijinska.
Silke Otto-Knapp is a German artist who was trained both in Germany and in the UK at Chelsea College of Art and Design. She had many solo exhibitions including one in 2005 at Tate Britain and is currently associate professor of Fine Art in UCLA.
Camden Arts Centre. Until 30 March 2014.