The work in this show on first pass reads as a deconstruction of the figurative work Jasper Knight is perhaps most famous for. Begun in earnest a few months ago the beginning of this series literally involved pulling apart older pieces and constructing new pieces out of the parts. Over the last few months however this almost violent reappraisal of old work has become a subtle and sophisticated exploration of abstraction, colour and tiled construction.
The first thing to say of course is that this aspect of construction has always been part of Knight’s practice. For those that share a studio with him, the construction of the panels is part of the process of painting. The abstract surfaces exist as plentifully as the figurative images. If the separation occurs at all it is only through the exhibition process that privileges the painted image.
Also this is not the first exhibition of abstract work Knight has shown. Certain more architectural series, such as his scaffold series, revelled in the constructed ground with minimal linear work over the top. Rosalie Gascoigne’s tiles, the Rauschenburg wall pieces from cardboard boxes and Helio Oliticica’s coloured constructions have always seemed to inform Knight’s work. Knight in this show has revelled in amplifying this side of his practice.
The surface has become nuanced and playful so as to carry the force of the painting without figurative imagery. Wood panel, Perspex, sign, painted panel, glazed panel, and little bracketed pieces of gesture and old paintings, are carefully positioned. Sometimes the juxtapositions are dynamic and crisp other times the tiles meet in unison and harmony. Like Mondrian who used to use coloured tape as part of his process you can almost imagine Knight moving these pieces around in a constant finding of the right composition.
Knight’s work has always had for me a tension and equivocation between the abstract and the figurative. In these works though it may be more obvious for other viewers. By debasing the importance of his artistic gesture, and opening up to the chance of a complicated jigsaw of pieces, Knight seems to have let go of his artistic authority. There is an elegant doubt in these works, or sometimes a great energy, that keeps the paintings in flight and does not allow them to settle and coalesce. This openness and lightness seems a contemporary trope, against the certainty and surety of the modern.