In his paintings, Knight continues to work with rectilinear marks and shapes that simultaneously operate as form, structure, gesture and field. Marks of differing width, length, and transparency slant and bend across the canvas generating a sense of buoyancy and rhythm and allow the works to continually slip out of the grasp of predictable or singular interpretation. In the interview that follows Michael shares insight into his thoughts and process.
Luis De Jesus: It's been three years since your last exhibition. What can you tell us about this new body of work?\
Michael Kindred Knight: I basically started from scratch and spent a lot of time doing works on paper. I took an "anything goes" attitude, taking a lot of chances and being willing to fail. The process was very generative and it freed me up from the old work, which was all about structure. I was looking to be surprised.
LDJ: What do you mean surprised?
MKK: It's what I enjoy most about painting. Each piece has its own life. I try to challenge myself to push the work in different directions as a way to explore, and focus on how each decision is operating, looking for opportunities to empty out or complicate what was there before. It's easy to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself when you hit on something that looks good and feels good, but that's not what I'm interested in. Actually, it's a red flag. I end up destroying it or working through it.
LDJ: You mentioned "empty out" and I assume that this is in reference to content and influences. It seems that in abstract painting these things can sometimes feel like a distraction, a way of making abstraction more interesting or relevant. What was your inspiration for these new paintings?
MKK: Architecture is still a big inspiration. I'm interested in the presence and interaction of light on architecture. Driving around LA everyday, I notice the incredible shifts of color and long shadows created by buildings, and the physical presence of color as it seems to push out beyond its edges. In my work I focus a lot of attention on how each shape and color leads your eye around. I also focus on surface and transparency, and how they effect the movement of color and light, shifting and pushing against each other. I'm also interested in different modes of painting and that history informs what I do, but I have
never bought into the legacy of abstraction. That history is not the complete story. I'm interested in the other half that's not been told yet...
LDJ: ...And you're forced to deal with it in the studio. You seem to relish the studio-heavy experience and the extended engagement with your work.
MKK: I do. I work on multiple pieces at once and over a long period of time. As I work, the paintings inform each other. I take a lot of in-progress photos and refer back to them. I borrow solutions between pieces. Each move can take a piece down a different road, ultimately leading to an accumulation that I couldn't have planned for or predicted. It is not to say that I don't think a few moves ahead or don't have "big ideas". But I don't settle easily – the whole is expendable as each painting progresses.
It's also important to me that the work remains open, interpretatively. One person may look at one of my paintings and say emphatically that it's a landscape or interior. Another may say it's clearly geometric abstraction. They're both talking about the work in relationship to history, but they see it differently. I'm happy as long as they keep looking.
LDJ: What about your titles? They're all one or two-word titles.
MKK: I keep a pile of notes with the names of places where I've lived or have visited that evoke different sensations and memories. Some of them are verbs, descriptive of motion or convey a particular attitude.
LDJ: Thanks, Michael. We really look forward to your exhibition!
Michael Kindred Knight was born 1977, Portland, Oregon, and received an MFA from Claremont Graduate University (2010) and BA from Western Washington University (2004). Recent exhibitions include Abstraction in the Singular, Bentley Gallery, Phoenix, AZ; Abstract Miniatures, Fine Arts Center, Tempe, AZ; Younger Than George, George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Impromptu,Luis De Jesus Los Angeles; LA n CV 2, Coachella Valley Art Center, Indio, CA; Scorch, Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, VA. His work has been reviewed and featured in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, New American Paintings, and The Huffington Post among other publications. Knight is the recipient of the Claremont Graduate University's President's Art Award, the Karl and Beverly Benjamin Fellowship in Art, and the Walker/Parker Memorial Fellowship. He lives and works in Los Angeles.