Von Bartha, Basel announces an exhibition of new large-scale wall works by the respected German artist Imi Knoebel, from June 14 – July 29.
Imi Knoebel is known for his theoretical approach to colour, form and surface. His powerful use of colour combinations work to reveal the physical potentialities behind often rudimentary materials; by reducing art to its most formal elements, Knoebel highlights the possibilities inherent within these materials and structures. Through a career spanning over 50 years, he has revisited these themes and materials in various ways.
The acrylic on aluminium, ‘free-form’ works at von Bartha challenge notions of what painting can be; made in the tradition of non-representational and abstract art, meaning is generated experientially by looking at, and reflecting on, the works displayed. In pieces such as Bild 07.12.2016 (2016) simple geometries and irregular shapes - depicted in pure, contrasting colours - exist together within the same painting. The uneven application of paint intensifies a sense of playfulness, juxtaposed against a representation of extreme formal precision. The works become a continuous meditation on the power and complexity of colour and shape.
In Anzu (2017) and Basel D3 (2017), Knoebel paints a single colour onto the work’s aluminium surfaces. Applied in a ‘workman-like’ way, the trace of the brush is visible across the work’s surfaces; neither hidden nor called attention to, the result is ‘matter of fact’ and unpretentious.
Large-scale within the gallery, the works are visually engaging yet not monumental. Knoebel’s intention is not to impose ideas about the symbolic power of art, but instead to ask the viewer to arrive at their own conclusions; he exlpains, ‘Painting is a craft, you must resist the temptation to get carried away with ideas. The ideas will find their way into the work without any help from you.’
Knoebel studied at the Werkkunstschule in Darmstadt (1962-64) before moving to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, fascinated by the teaching style and personality of Joseph Beuys. Knoebel, however, distanced himself from the other Beuys students and developed his own, minimalist style, influenced by Kazimir Malevich; Malevich’s Black Square (1915) gave him ‘The overwhelming feeling that I could start at nothing.’ His puristic line drawings, light projections and white paintings of the early 70s saw the inclusion of colour for the first time in 1974. During the 1980s the artist experimented with found objects, incorporating them within his installation pieces. Continuing his investigation into the medium of painting, Knoebel has also expanded his practice to an architectural scale; his largest commission to date saw the artist design several stained glass windows for the Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, installed in 2011 and 2015.