In January the Camden Arts Centre presents an exhibition of new works by the German artist Silke Otto-Knapp (b.1970). Otto-Knapp is best known for her large scale canvases depicting scenes inspired by stage performance and landscape. Silke Otto-Knapp opens at Camden Arts Centre on 17 January 2014 and admission is free.
Otto-Knapp tackles the tradition of romantic landscape painting through the constraints of stage design, to question issues of decorative surface, spatial depth and pictorial construction. Rendered almost entirely in black and silver pigments creating a stage-lit effect, the monochrome compositions of this new body of work address the visual contrivances in performance and landscape with a particular focus on lighting.
Taking inspiration from Anna Halprin’s stage built into the forest at her mountain home north of San Francisco, the subject is the moonlit Stage (North & South) 2012, and Stage (Moonlit) 2011. These compositions bring nature and artifice into direct communion as the trees themselves act as a frame for the space of the stage and issues of reality and artifice are confused.
The paintings depict their subject matter softly, with emphasis on tone and atmosphere. This delicate rendering of unapologetically romantic and fantastical scenarios (moon-lit forests, romantic landscapes or ballet performances) could be seen as a post-feminist proposition. Watercolour, which has been assigned a minority status in the art historical tradition, is here elevated to the grand scale of oil painting.
Alongside the paintings, the exhibition will include new collages, and etchings developed during a residency at The Banff Centre, Canada. The central motif of performance will be expanded in the supporting public programme which is planned to include a major new performance in the gallery spaces by LA-based Flora Weigman. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication with an essay by Sabeth Buchmann co-produced with Charlottenborg, Copenhagen where some of the works in the exhibition were shown in 2013.
Silke Otto-Knapp was born in Osnabrück, Germany in 1970. She trained at the University of Hildesheim and at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London. She has exhibited widely internationally. Otto-Knapp moved to London in 1995 but has not had a solo exhibition in a London institution since her 2005 Art Now presentation at Tate Modern. This new exhibition will present a new departure in her work since her show at Modern Art Oxford in 2009. She now lives and works between LA and London.