Tackling the traditions of romantic landscape painting through the constraints of stage design, a new body of work by German artist Silke Otto-Knapp (b.1970) opens at the Camden Arts Centre in January. In the artist’s first London-based solo show since her 2005 Art Now presentation at Tate Modern, Otto-Knapp – best known for her large scale canvases depicting scenes inspired by stage performances and landscapes – presents work rendered almost entirely in black and silver pigments to create a stage-lit effect. The monochrome compositions address the visual contrivances in performance and landscape with a particular focus on lighting. The work also questions issues of decorative surface, spatial depth and pictorial construction.
Taking inspiration from Anna Halprin’s stage built into a forest at her mountain home north of San Francisco, these compositions bring nature and artifice into direct communion as the trees themselves act as a frame for the space of the stage – confusing issues of reality and artifice. The delicate rendering of unapologetically romantic and fantastical scenarios (moon-lit forests, romantic landscapes or ballet performances) in this body of work could also be seen as a post-feminist proposition.
Alongside the paintings, the exhibition will include new collages and etchings developed during the artist’s residency at The Banff Centre, Canada. The central motif of performance will also 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.
Silke Otto-Knapp, 17 January – 30 March 2014, Camden Arts Centre, London, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG.
1. Three Seascapes 2013, 42 Unique Etchings, 335.3 x 533.4 cm overall, courtesy of Silke Otto-Knapp.