Opening: 6 february, 17:00 – 19:00
Czech artist Jan Knap (Chrudim, 1949) has steadily been working on his oeuvre since the 1980’s. His work is easy on the eyes but by no means simple. His style and subject matter resemble traditional canonical elements, apparent in works of the Flemish Primitives, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Nazarenes. A certain naivety strikes us in the work of Knap, partly by making use of a smooth classical painting style. Christian iconography is alternated with humoristic and contemporary details, presenting his subjects as the picture perfect 1950’s families, known from commercials. Nevertheless, he doe not intend to ridicule modern or religious elements in any way. The integrated religious aspects are always subtle and by no means strictly imposed on the viewer. His imagery reminds us of late gothic or early Renaissane narrative scenes.
Knap started making his work as an anti-sentiment during the wild postmodernism of the 1980’s. He succeeded in shocking the art world with his sugary motives and overtly ydillic domestic scenes. However, he has become fascinated by the wondrous aspects of daily life and finds joy in translating them onto canvas. By creating compositions that are (all too) familiar we can focus on what his work is really about: the precise technique of painting and the process of introspection. All scenes capture nostalgic, religious narratives, but include at the same time explicitly figurative elements; capturing a certain mood of hyper reality. Metaphysical, universal and timeless elements do constantly collide with a sharp focus on temporality and contemporary narratives.
When looking at the work of Jan Knap, we feel the urge of constantly searching for violent elements, a certain rawness, or the possibility of disturbing the perfectly balanced harmony or idyll he seems to build. This search for imperfection firectly confronts the viewer with his or her own state of mind and assumptions concerning contemplating contemporary art. Maybe we get this suspicious feeling because of the strange transition this work seems to include: in an era where Kantian aesthetics reign, disinterestedly looking at art as an autonomous object has become the standard. Producing religious art outside of the religious context in which it was traditionally supposed to be made confuses us and provides us with new insights in the present-day function of art. Although it seems not suitable to experience religious art in the secular and white-cubbish setting of a contemporary art gallery, it certainly provides the viewer with new insights concerning artistic context as an instrument defining meaning. The work of Jan Knap represents a plot-twist in our contemporary way of looking at art; he succeeds in making the immaterial sphere fully visible, without intending to deceive us in any way.
The appreciation for the work of Jan Knap is widely spread throughout Europe; it is part of many museum and international private collections, amongst which are those of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Centraal Museum Utrecht; Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome; David Hockney, London, and the Dutch Sanders Collection.