Nick Knight: Still
The Mass present Still, Nick Knight's first exhibition in Japan. Showcasing a more personal side of his career, Still demonstrates a constant desire to experiment in three distinct bodies, Flora, Roses, Photo Paintings and Roses from my Garden.
The Mass presents
Nick Knight: Still
November 10th - December 16th 2018
For the past four decades Nick Knight has consistently challenged the aesthetics and standards of beauty and, as a result, is celebrated as one of the world’s most influential and visionary photographers working today. His groundbreaking creative collaborations with leading designers including Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen, alongside his vanguard advertising campaigns for prestigious clients such as Dior, Lancôme, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein or Yves Saint Laurent have helped to make him a household name in both fine art and fashion. Alongside his hugely successful commercial career, Knight has a rather more private side of his practice that is demonstrative of a constant desire to experiment and challenge himself. In Still, Knight brings two series to Tokyo, ‘Flora’ and ‘Drip Roses’ which are exceptional examples of Knight’s restless, journey with aesthetic margins. Unlike any images of still lives we have seen before, Knight’s images of plants and flowers are balanced, harmonious compositions that move us to think about the innate power and beauty of nature.
‘Flora’ was first initiated in 1993 for Knight’s installation ‘Plant Power’ at the Natural History Museum in London and then became a book, of the same name, which is a daring and comprehensive volume of 46 images of flowers and plants chosen from the Museum’s six million specimens. To create the collection, Knight and his wife, Charlotte, spent three and a half years in the herbarium mapping the presence of flora - from opium to cotton - in our society. From the original specimens he captured for the acclaimed book, Knight selected 15 prints representative of the arresting diversity in botany that he found so exciting when he first gained access to the herbarium to be his first limited edition portfolio.
The resulting compositions are enduringly fresh and beautifully poised in their simplicity. Photographed from above, each reads as an object in space; without border or perspective they are overwhelmingly real and almost palpable to the touch. The colour in some of the images blooms, while other compositions work their way across the page like drawings that are organically unravelling. Together the 15 images highlight the innate range of possibility that is present in nature. As Knight stands back to capture them, the compositions unfalteringly concentrate our attention toward the complexity intrinsic in each specimen. Without bravado, Knight flawlessly allows the true beauty of each piece to come into sharp and unwavering focus.
In contrast to his seemingly simply and paired back ‘Flora’ compositions, Knight’s ‘Drip Rose’ series are positively opulent. This body of work, while taking its roots from 16th century still life painting, is a true hybrid; literally part photograph, part painting. To create them, Knight introduces heat and water during the printing process to make the colour run. It’s a dynamic, physical process that took him and master-printer Allan Finamore ten years to perfect. These wonderfully balanced and seductive, large-scale still lives have a stunning romanticism as major washes of colour rip though traditional compositions that are anchored by antique vases, or light jumps from pools of colour.
Knight pulls on the history of vanitas painting, encapsulating the fragility of a rose’s life cycle both in the composition and the medium; the roses are dying, the paint is dripping. He is documenting a moment slipping from our grasp. Stunning, joyous highlights push against the deep angst of darker areas. Inspired by still life paintings from the 16th Century, Knight has taken a photograph and applied different techniques, such as heat and exposure, during the printing process which has left the image with a beautiful effect where colours seem to magically bleed into one another and take on a life of their own.
As the first show outside of the UK to exhibit these two bodies of work together, ‘Nick Knight: Still’ lends insight into Knight’s relentless desire to find and capture new versions of beauty.
Over the past 12 years Nick Knight and master printer Allan Finamore have worked together to develop fine art prints that are unrivalled in colour and quality.
By combining a unique hand-coated protective finish with a distinctive museum-grade printing process that relies heavily on traditional photographic darkroom techniques with the addition of a hand-applied protective finish, blacks are more velvety and colours are more vibrant. The finish acts in a similar manner to the emulsion on a traditional c-print or silver gelatin print and provides UV light stabilisation, acts as a barrier to atmospheric contamination, and for conservation purposes, it is reversible. While standard ink-jet and colour photographic prints can stain and fade in 30-60 years, based on Wihelm Imaging research, the printing technique that Knight and Finamore developed has shown permanence in excess of 350-years.
All of Nick’s work is printed on Hahnemuhle paper. His editions never exceed a run of 18, excluding Artist Proofs.