Sunday 24 November 2013

Steph Knowles, artist

Here are some recent paintings by Steph Knowles, all acrylic on paper. I'm afraid the reproductions don't do them justice.

I have a large charcoal drawing by her - a virtuoso piece which, given the humble and intractable medium is little short of miraculous in its structurally complex and rhythmic patterns of light and shade. It's non-representational although not quite wholly abstract - she's clearly looked long and hard at modern and especially brutalist buildings - the pattern of fenestration and the relation of solid architectonic mass to space. She is also, as the pictures below confirm, a sensationally gifted colourist These images would, I think, make wonderful fabric designs - as printed silks, for instance, they would be enhanced by the movement of folds and pleats. (In the 1940s Henry Moore made several dozen designs for David Whitehead Fabrics which are little known but very striking and vibrant, one of which used barbed wire motifs.)

And here's something new to me - a shape not often seen (although Jackson Polloick comes to mind), like a 70mm VistaVision screen, the format favoured by Hitchcock in his American years. They have tremendous scale (which doesn't mean they're big).

I like and admire her work very much because it's quietly tough and expert, cool and accomplished. It's good to see an artist who combines the warm and the cerebral, the diligent and the modest, and who knows a lot about form and colour; the texture, if you like, of representation. Her works are (as I wrote once elsewhere) modest records of their own creation - the overlaid mesh-like application of layers of paint, the dip and weave of horizontal and vertical quantities (like, it strikes me, stills from an elaborate Len Lye-like animation, which would take thousands of years to film). Knowles's work is painstaking yet fresh.

A recent piece by Kevin Brazil in The Oxonian describes (Salvete favourite) Eimear McBride's writing as 'a new continent of expression', and that's a phrase that could apply equally to Steph Knowles's painting. In a culture dominated by incontinent expression - the rowdy, the gormless, the aggressively confessional, we need her skills.

Steph Knowles has no website so I can't direct you to more of her work. In fact she has barely a mention on the internet, so perhaps this blog will prompt interest. 

Here are some more pictures:

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