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Paco Knöller

Galerie Karsten Greve Köln

Lidrand des Sees. Retrospektive 1986 - 2016
April 14 - June 18, 2016
Opening and Cocktail during Art Cologne: Thursday, April 14, 2016, 6 - 9 pm
in presence of the artist
Galerie Karsten Greve Cologne is pleased to present Paco Knöller. Lidrand des Sees. Retrospektive 1986 – 2016, in its Cologne gallery space. Encircling the past three decades of Paco Knöller’s work, the retrospective stages an in-depth exploration of the trajectories and innovations of his past artistic approach as well as his newest compositions. Rising to notoriety in the 1980’s through his eloquent use of colour and experimental techniques, Knöller is considered one of the most prominent figures in contemporary art of his generation, exemplified in the singularity of his working with the traditional medium woodcut, among other cutting-edge forms of expression.
Lidrand des Sees. Retrospektive 1986 2016 assembles an illustrative selection of all major series of Knöller’s work, marking the most significant departures in his visual articulation and delineating an aesthetic progression both in a spatial and thematic manner. With the exception of more recent compositions, this is achieved by exclusively displaying works of great significance that have been exhibited in museum solo shows between 1988 and 2008.
Drafted in oil pastel and pigment on large sheets of paper, the artist’s early works depict unsettling scenes of crude, angular elements placed alongside implied humanoid configurations. The nightmarish iconography evoking a constrictive, impending sense of dread and unresolved tension, is palpable in their restrained colour palette. Knöller’s subsequent work cycles incorporated more reduced, fragmented imagery, as the artist grew increasingly distant from figurative representation - often featuring the reoccurring motif of the head, typified through allusively placed lines. He moved on to produce his pioneering series of vibrant woodcuts blended with painterly elements in the early 2000s.
Naturally inclined to working in ways that emphasize, challenge and exhaust the intrinsic qualities of his materials, the powerful interaction of colour with liberally composed lines characterises the work of Paco Knöller and creates a riveting spectacle. Led by the overarching endeavour to converge the two, Knöller’s work has been fittingly described as a very direct and uncontrolled approach to colour. Far from any formal restriction, it is shaped by an ambivalent presence of both spontaneity and premeditation. The preoccupation with this symbiotic relationship and the axiomatic continuum of Knöller’s intuitive abilities as a draughtsman provide the impetus for most of his oeuvre and manifest themselves in his consistently distinctive visual form.  
Paco Knöller, never ceasing to astound audiences by producing original and engaging work, found his dominion in the technique informing his more recent series. The clunky wooden blocks on which the artist works, prosaically referred to by him as 'lumbers', account for their almost sculptural sensibility. After priming their surface with enamel, creating a near stratigraphic lacquered arrangement, Knöller uses the palms of his hands to layer oil pastels onto one another and thereby amasses a breathing, iridescent sheath of colour in varying degrees of opacity with an enticingly tactile quality. The artist then uses a knife to draw lines into the pastel coat across the transitions between the hues, revealing the varnished subcutaneous plane beneath in a symbiotic interchange between painting and drawing. As these paths uncover the alternating lustrous shades, the line transgressing the blocks of colour becomes the main protagonist of this lucid and visceral demonstration of seemingly incidental yet deliberate placement of texture and shape.
Also presented in the exhibition are excerpts from one of the artist’s most comprehensive work cycles Künstliche Paradiese. Schlafmohnalphabet, distinct in its multifarious depictions of radiant poppies as embodiments of a mystifying vessel. Other series of  'lumbers' with titles such as Brief an die Blinden and Dem Wind point towards their poetic nature. Also displayed are excerpts from the later workcycle The Thinking Reed, named after a piece of writing by Agnes Martin. Knöller’s dynamic surfaces, alive with small irregularities, present amalgamations of lush hues occupying spaces three dimensionally and exude an organically balanced sense of harmony.
Through the resistance of muted colours feeding on the energy of other more jarring elements, velvety pliability placed against sleek enamel and speculative observation of only partially hidden layers, Knöller’s works transmit their sensuality to the viewer and allow for them to be experienced in their full complexity and intensity.
The display culminates in the central piece Aufwachraum, completed in 2016. Consisting of three blue wooden panels, the work is reminiscent of an oceanic vastness that extends into the distance before the spectator’s eye, grounded again by the lines sprawling across its body. Its title Aufwachraum, roaming candidly within the bounds of cerebral association, refers to a state of arrival, to a space between dream and awake, a soothing and similarly grounding calm inherent in it.
Born in the Swabian town of Obermarchtal in 1950, Paco Knöller studied art at the Düsseldorf Academy under Joseph Beuys between 1972 and 1978. It was also in 1978 that the Städtische Galerie in Ravensburg hosted his first solo show. Since then his works have been exhibited in numerous esteemed institutions such as the Nationalgalerie Berlin (1988), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen Düsseldorf (1990), Sprengel Museum Hannover (1997), Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe (1997), Museum Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin (2002), Städtisches Kunstmuseum Spendhaus Reutlingen (2007) and the Kunstmuseum Dieselkraftwerk in Cottbus (2008) in the inaugural exhibition after its refurbishment. In 2001, Knöller was to receive the “Oberschwäbische Kunstpreis”. In the same year, he took up a teaching position at the Academy of Art in Bremen, which he held until 2013. Paco Knöller lives and works in Berlin.

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