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Silke Otto-Knapp

Primarily in watercolour and gouache, the work of Silke Otto-Knapp (b. 1970, Osnabrück – d. 2022, Pasadena) has evolved from small-scale, colourful figurative paintings to large-scale polyptychs with a reduced palette. Group (Moving) (2019) is a recent work and representative of this development. It shows a group of figures in silhouette, simplified in their outline and monumental in appearance. As such, it is characteristic of the complex black-and-white images with tones of grey that she creates using an elaborate technique. Compositions in the form of drawings are first transferred to a canvas. Forms and figures emerge on the surface through the repeated application of water and black pigment, which is then shaded off with a damp paintbrush. Through this overlaying of tone, the flatness of the motifs and their contours acquire a depth whose texture appears to vibrate when viewed intently. Otto-Knapp’s work draws upon a wealth of references. She takes inspiration from nature and landscape, but also finds stimulation in poetry, the history of art, dance and theatre. Group (Moving) is a piece that lies somewhere between choreographed figuration and geometric abstraction. The silhouettes – like shadows – appear to move and the dynamism of the composition is generated by the strong light/dark contrast which, in some of her paintings, develops into a stark combination of black and white. With no explicit narrative, the image appears to be a paused moment in which the figures float as if suspended in time and space.


  1. Silke Otto-Knapp, "Group (Moving)", 2019. Collection Mudam Luxembourg - Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean
    Silke Otto-Knapp Group (Moving), 2019

    Aquarelle sur toile monté sur bois
    150 x 300 cm
    Collection Mudam Luxembourg
    Acquisition 2020
    © Photo : Evan Bedford
    Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

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