Carlye Packer is pleased to announce Hot Heeled and Glancing, the first solo exhibition of Sara Knowland’s (B. 1981, Oxford, UK) work in the U.S. The exhibition opens Saturday, May 14th, and will be on view through June 10th.
Demonstrating, on one hand, the painter’s incredible fluency with the material and conceptual construction of images, and on the other, a stubborn, nagging ambivalence about their history and value, Knowland’s work oscillates between elegance and abjection.
Throughout her upbringing in the UK, the artist and her family made regular visits to a village in the Flemish countryside where her maternal grandfather was born, a brittle, desolate landscape where in winter, long flat fields are embedded with ice. Knowland takes inspiration both from her memories of the environment itself, and the legacy of Northern European masters like Bruegel, Ensor, Constant Permeke, and Bosch, who depicted the terrain’s dreary recalcitrance in their paintings with awkward sobriety and mystical frankness. Today, her predilection for compositional unconventionality as well as the film of atmospheric jaundice that overlays her subjects attest to the profound and persistent influence the region and its visual culture have exerted on her work and thinking.
In Hot Heeled and Glancing, Knowland presents a series of screeching primates, alien canines, demure pigs, and blustering women. These figures - sometimes people, sometimes animals, but more often both - bow, rise, swelter, liquefy, and disintegrate on the surface of their supports.
In equalizing humans - in her work, almost exclusively women - and beasts along a continuous plane of muddy obscurity, Knowland makes a simple, and intuitive visual argument. The brutality we subject swine to, we also exact on our own species. The humanity we reserve for people, is shared by all forms of organic life. This insight is inherently feminist, as it makes legible how intersecting regimes of violence legitimize each other. In three intimate images of sows (another word for female pigs), the artist explores a scene from the Carrie films, a moment wherein the treatment of a sow, pre-slaughter, policed by torchlight, makes palpable the apparatuses of structural power that condition and deform us.
In her portraits of women, Knowland’s manipulation of paint is at its most vitreous, its most coarse, carnal, and sensual, an artistic decision that appears both deliberate and spontaneous, and emphasizes through inversion how our representations of animals and animality are entangled with the historical construction of the concept of femininity. In one of two diptychs where Knowland invokes human figures, she presents a collaged film still from Zulawski’s Possesion (1981), in the other she digests an abstracted view of German artist Jutta Koether mid-performance. Koether exists in the exhibition as an art-historical signifier, touchstone, or inflection point whose own work, referencing the contributions of male artists like Manet and Poussin, wrenches artifice to the foreground of the image, exposing representation as a kind of bewitchment of the real.
Hot Heeled and Glancing was organized in collaboration with Quinn Harrelson.