Manuela Karin Knaut’s painterly work reflects the enthusiasm of the artist for travel, the discovery of new terrain and the inevitable leaving of her own comfort zone. The often harsh reality on the streets of Johannesburg, the to German eyes unexpectedly chaotic and disorderly-seeming life in the townships, the colourful variety in the narrow alleys of Accra, the unvarnished, broken walls, the graffiti of the street artists of Brooklyn, the uninhibited, real life and action in the most diverse corners of the world: it is the brokenness, the charmingly imperfect, the frequently temporary-seeming that fascinates Manuela Karin Knaut, and which she imbues into her pictorial language and the primary idea of her location-specific and large format installations. It is the rough edges and ends of life far away from the centre, far from the average safety and comfort. The artist consciously seeks out these confrontations with barriers and the edges of society.
Knaut expresses this restlessness, this almost childish, unprepossessing curiosity and adventurousness in her works. Her paintings are balancing acts of colour, form and line, surface and space, abstraction and figurativeness, image and text. Individual areas of colour are put down with strong paint marks and then worked over and over. A variety of more or less defined objects keep being woven into the painterly process. Everyday objects straight from life are contoured with line, or painted over, or revealed again.
The artist combines a great variety of materials in her paintings, true to the work style inspired by elements of street art scenes. She glues paper waste, images, photos, fabric pieces or bits of text onto her paintings, ties, rips, glues, sews or nails found objects onto or into her image worlds. She adds, reduces, scrapes, rips, rubs – no painting is treated like a raw egg. Life is frequently chaotic in Manuela Knaut’s generous studio and integrated print workshop. The artist works in four rooms on a variety of works concurrently, some hang on the walls, some wait in the drying rack for the next phase of work, others lean up somewhere or just lie on the floor. Here a layer of concrete is drying, there preparations for screen printing take form. In another place a base coat, a varnish, a glue or spray is applied. Still in all the chaos there is never any doubt about the moment when a painting is ‘finished’, when the story of that painting has been told. In the same clear and seemingly spontaneous way in which the first layers of paint have found their way onto the canvas, she is just as definitive about the point at which the work is finished. Sometimes after 15 minutes, sometimes after days or even weeks.
Next the works are hung on a plain white presentation wall, checked again and again and finally signed. At this moment a strange peace captures the usually pulsating studio space. Time, peace and space for observers, for their own stories and an invitation to let the thoughts wander and find one’s own place in the colourful world of Manuela Karin Knaut.
Manuela Karin Knaut, born 1970, is an independent artist currently living in Braunschweig, Germany. She acquired a Master of Arts in Fine Art at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Apart from her centrally located studio and print workshop in Braunschweig she also keeps a studio in Johannesburg.
She has been a member of the Bund Bildender Künstler (German Association of Visual Artists) and the Association Internationale des Arts Plastiques, as well as The Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA).
Since 1990 various exhibitions nationally and internationally, amongst them in South Africa, Ghana, Switzerland, Danmark, UK, Austria, USA, Israel, Kirghistan. Her works are represented worldwide in public and private collections.
Location specific installations and sculptural interventions, painting, photography.
Master of Arts (Fine Arts, Major installation art) University of the Witwatersrand, School of Arts, Johannesburg
BA Art Education, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, (including teacher training qualifications)
Braunschweig School of Fine Arts (fine art/painting)
Tulane University New Orleans (English as a Second Language)