Born in 1970 in Osnabrück, Silke Otto-Knapp majored in cultural studies at the University of Hildesheim and received her MFA from Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Otto-Knapp is a painter who works in the medium of watercolor on canvas. Otto-Knapp produces landscape paintings as well as paintings based on historical documentations of stage design and performance. By transforming the space with her painting process of building and removing layers of watercolor, Otto-Knapp creates degrees of transparency and opacity with layers of movement in one uninterrupted surface. Her paintings could be compared to looking at a photographic negative where there is a constant play of negative and positive, producing an unstable space that nevertheless has a distinct physical presence.
Works on view are from the body of works included in the solo presentation “Violets” (2018). The title of the exhibition refers to a journal of poetry Kurt Schwitters published in 1931 in Hannover and the group of paintings take their starting point from the Schwitters journal. In the mid-1920s, Schwitters developed a concept for theaters he called Normalbühne [Standard (or Normal) Stage]. Influenced by the economy and pragmatism of Constructivism, he wanted to design elements for a stage that would work with any text or form of production. He imagined every theater would have a set of the props and the technical instructions necessary to operate them. His design makes use of abstract shapes such as the cube, sphere, circle, steps, rectangles, squares, etc. that can be used to construct a theatrical space that plays with depth and illusion. Otto-Knapp’s painting imagines a stage set that uses these instructions, while also anticipating the many possible new combinations and constellations they allow.
Otto-Knapp has held solo exhibitions at the Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2017); the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015); the Kunsthalle Wien and the Camden Arts Centre, London (2014); the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2013); the Kunstverein Munich (2010); and the Tate Britain, London (2005). She has also participated in group exhibitions, including the Liverpool Biennial 2018, “Beautiful world where are you?”; “Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only”, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); “Sacré 101 – An Exhibition Based on The Rite of Spring”, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2014); “Dance/Draw”, the ICA, Boston, MA (2011); and the 9th International Istanbul Biennial (2005).