Paint It Black!

Anders Knutsson
Van Der Plas Gallery, NYC
September 5 - October 17, 2015

In his recent exhibition at Van Der Plas Gallery, entitled "Light, Time and Patience," Anders Knutsson spotlights color, the essential element that adds exponentially to the richness and vibrancy of visual art. Without the stimulation generated by hues our senses go hungry. Swedish American painter Knutsson has been exploring issues of color since the mid-1970’s, in dense wax and oil on linen “monochrome” paintings that highlight one pure color per painting. Their delicately modulated surfaces may look deceptively simple, but each piece involves the accumulation of 7 – 12 layers of carefully applied paint that creates luminous transparent depths. A number of the artist’s new works, engendered in 2014 by his joint project with Swedish weaver Hanna Kristine Isaksson, are referred to as "weave-paintings." Incorporating Knutsson's input on threads, fabric and design, Isaksson uses traditional Nordic techniques and patterns to weave linens that generate fresh assertions of light and color on the surface texture.

Color in visual art has a trickle down effect on furniture and textile design, advertising, fashion and interior decoration and other related areas. Fine art leads the way while other fields follow its inspiration. While color study is a complex science involving the inner mechanisms of the eye linked to the brain, in one way color is simple. It has a direct and immediate impact that has a profound effect on the viewer. Knutsson does not intend to mix unnamable, unrecognizable colors. Instead, he focuses on the most familiar hues, the primary and secondary colors that originate in the color spectrum. The color spectrum manifests itself most perceptibly in a natural phenomenon, the rainbow, which is an iconic arch of colored light caused by the refraction of the sun’s light by the moisture dispersed in the atmosphere. The appearance of the sky, clouds, sunsets, plant forms, flowers, trees, sea and sand varies with the changing of the light's rays throughout the movement of the earth in its orbit around the sun. These changes and variations help to make life worth living, and they make the art that they inspire worth seeing. Colors have qualities that have a charged emotional effect on the viewer. There are tones that vary in brightness or darkness according to the addition of white to the original pure color. The statues of ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India were all painted with plant-based pigments which have faded, but whose remnants remain visible.

Knutsson's hues are emphatically mixed; they are not comprised of raw paint taken straight from the tube in undiluted pigments. Instead, he combines his own pigments in an attempt to explore pure unadulterated light through color that cannot be easily explained. Knutsson has long been intrigued by what we see and how we see it. How, what and why we see are biological and philosophical questions that take a lifetime of reading, research and experimentation to investigate. We all see the same colors (except for those who are color blind), which have been identified and designated as the primary and secondary colors. The works in the exhibition entitled "Light, Time and Patience" bring these colors to an optimum state of unadulterated translucent depth that is seen in juxtaposition and in contrast to the other colors presented in the paintings on view.

Knutsson is nothing if not immersed in the construction and application of his materials, and in their effect on the pure color-light of his art. He builds his own stretcher bars and frames, and he commissions traditional weavers to create his linens. His art incorporates the essence of technique without crossing the line into pure craft. Unlike Yves Klein, known for the idiosyncratic blue paint, or Frank Stella, whose early works are exclusively black, Knutsson investigates the entire color spectrum, focusing on one hue at a time. These veils of see-through paint create in solid form a depth of reflective light with the colors one perceives obliquely in the rainbow. - Mary Hrbacek

Mary Hrbacek has been writing reviews of NY art exhibitions since 1999; she has covered shows in almost every museum in town.