Michael Knutson

Artist Statement for Symmetrical Fields

I will be showing oil paintings and a few watercolors that I have made over the past four years. All of the works are symmetrical, four-layered fields of spiraling ovoids. Most of the paintings are diptychs; the largest of these are 60" x 80" and 40"x 120."

In their overlapping oval forms, illusions of transparency and symmetry, these works are further explorations of a pictorial space I wandered into five years ago. Although the underlying compositions are symmetrical, the arrangement of colors in most of them are not. In the left panel of Symmetrical Four-layered Ovoids and Lattices II the ovoids are the solid, colored forms, and in the right panel the"negative spaces" (the lattices) are the solid, colored forms. In Symmetrical Four-layered Ovoids and Lattices III the blue and lavender ovoids in the left panel flip to become the blue and lavender lattices in the right panel, and the green and orange ovoids in the right panel flip to become the green and orange lattices in the left panel.

Process: The compositions for the paintings and monotypes begin with a drawing on paper of oval forms set into an expanding spiral. I scan the drawing into Photoshop, create three duplicate layers, flip each duplicate into a different orientation, make the lines on each layer a different color, and merge them onto the original layer. This results in a symmetrical tangled doodle. I then adjust the size and shape of the image and print it out onto watercolor paper or pre-sized canvas for the oil paintings.

The "coloring" process for each of the media is different. Since transparency is a natural condition of watercolors, on each of the four layers the shapes are painted in a different color wash, creating as many as eleven additional colors where two, three or four shapes overlap. The illusions of transparency in the oil paintings are created with up to fifteen opaque colors- the four base colors and their intermixtures whthree or four shapes overe two, erlap.

Despite my use of the computer as an intermediate process, I am not interested in completing them digitally. The screen, hand-held or laptop, is now the pervasive form in which people perceive images, but I remain committed to making things that are hand-made and physical. My oil paintings are tactile and clearly painted with a brush, and my watercolors show the feathering and grain of the diluted pigments.

Although I may write about my work and process in fairly detached terms, I am a diehard romantic. I have long wanted to construct a geometric space as organic, gestural and complex as Monet's water garden paintings and Pollock's tangled fields. I think that my current work is the closest I have come to this aspiration. As for other influences and affinities, it's probably not surprising that at the moment I am particularly interested in the symmetries of Oriental carpets, as well as those of Northwest Coast Indian house fronts and boxes, ancient Chinese bronze pots and Byzantine mosaics.

Michael Knutson
April, 2016