The romantic notion of art can be perfectly encapsulated in the Canadian based artist Kris Knight. His whimsical portraits not only portray elegantly painted human figures, but they are saturated with mysticism and romanticism. Yet, what is even more intriguing is how he is playing with sexual identities, voyeurism, psychotropic alterations, and the human gaze. Knight is unlike any other portraiture artist that I have come across so far – his paintings leave you with a sense of mystery and a desire to enter and discover the world that his figures are set in.
My first real interaction with this artist was when I was interning at Katharine Mulheim Contemporary Art Projects. Mr. Knight was to be our next upcoming artist for his exhibition – Tragic Kingdom, 2011. The curator had begun to describe the artist and his works. The show was to display Knight’s imaginary world where the shamed, bullied, and the tragic were to be the subjects of beauty. This secret society revolved around the so-called outcasts of society – l’etranger (as Camus, ze French philosopher would put it) translated to “the others.” These subjects would live amongst this world in order to “transcend the tedium of small town life for the protection of the enchanted forest, banding together an exclusive and rustic regality.” However, this so called Utopia of misfits would take a tragic turn like the exhibition title expresses. Hierarchies ultimately arise and corruption soon follows. This exhibition not only displays the artist’s beautifully artistic hand, but paints us a fairy tale story rapidly turned sinister and corrupt.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was to see the next day. Yes – Katharine Mulheim had explained the exhibition, but as the saying goes: a painting sometimes speaks louder than words. I was in AWE to open up the parcels of art. Most striking to me, and still haunts me to this day (in a good way) is his painting Fête (pictured above and to the left). The romanticism and mysticism is painted in the dark background as three young men walk quietly, lurkingthrough the dark mysterious woods. I had this unsettling feeling as if I was watching something I was not supposed to look at. I was voyeur preying on these young boys, but I could not look away. Fête had a very Bottecelli-esque feel- it was the contemporary painting of Bottecelli’s Primavera, 1482 (pictured below). This unsettling feeling permeated my he(ART) and still haunts me to this day.
Peace Out, K