Thinking about the shapes and colors in The Shrines of Itsukushima and Wakanoura, I decided to take a look at Michael Knutson's paintings. This video shows his art from the recent show Enfolding Fields at Blackfish Gallery here in Portland. Knutson is currently drawing and painting spirals that to some look like colliding universes. Watching the video, I could see how at some point Knutson could have been attracted to the scenes in Japanese screens such as The Shrines of Itsukushima and Wakanoura. The screens treat us to a bird's eye view of a moment in time, much as a aerial photograph would today. The elements of the scene do become shapes that interconnect with each other.
The old saying "curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought him back" drove me to do a google search on Michael Knutson. Sure enough I found Knutson and screen linked at an interview with Geoform. The interview comprises two parts that not only give a peek into how Knutson constructs his work but also a retrospective of how it developed over the years. Deep into the article (on the second page), I found the following reference to Japanese screens...
Nambam Diptych began with a 17th century Japanese screen in mind. The screen represents a bird’s eye view of a port city, and the buildings, visible through breaks in stylized, low-lying clouds, are set on parallel diagonals. The structures in my version are, of course, eccentric and non-parallel, but I thought of the space in the painting as seen from a high and hovering point of view. Like in Nighttown, its solid colored shapes are grouped in zig-zags of three planes. Some of the shapes seemed comical and animate—a reemergence of the figural impulse.
From the article I gather that it has taken Knutson many years to get to the point of seeing what the interviewer described in the statement: "Spiraling lattices of tightly interlocked forms seem to be a perfect vehicle to achieve your goal of creating what you've (Knutson) called an "all-over enmeshed space." The interview is an excellent read. For those of us visually oriented it is also filled with images of Knutson's art from his early years in school through the present. And you can see more of his current work in the video above "Enfolding Fields", narrated by Carol Benson, Knutson's wife. Click here to read the interview.