The Art of Pierre Knop

Painting With The Third Hand

 By Shira Wolfe

Pierre Knop
Photo courtesy of Hunted Projects

Pierre Knop was not an easy child. Wanting to drop out of school, his parents asked a friend, a professional photographer, to take Knop on as an assistant to teach him some good old work ethic. Little did they know that this would prove to be the start of Knop’s creative career.

Half French, half German, Knop was born in France but grew up in Germany. This might not strike anyone as remotely interesting today, but as the artist remarked himself, his conflicted roots would have been frowned upon just decades before and considered scandalous. Knop now uses his mixed roots as one of the themes in his artworks.

After his first taste of art, Knop went on to study design and illustration and discovered his love for working with traditional materials in a comic artist’s illustration class, rejecting the digital world which he found boring. When he discovered he could actually study painting, and got accepted at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, he says that started everything.

Pierre Knop, Caspar
Caspar, 2018, 65 x 100 cm, oil on linen

Knop is a man of extremes: he likes to be in the studio 24/7, beginning his day around 6:30am with meditation and then spending as much time as possible in the studio to bring all the images and stories in his mind into reality. There can either be very loud music, or total silence while he’s working. He always works on several paintings at once and reacts by impulse and intuition.

Intuition and coincidence are, in fact, some of the main conditions for his painting process. He quotes Philip Guston, who spoke about ‘painting with the third hand’, by which he meant that organic process when you get in the flow, switch off your mind, and paint unconsciously. This is key for Knop. Another important aspect in his work is his frequent use of family photographs and historical images as a starting point.

Pierre Knop, The Observer
The Observer, 2018, 68 x 103 cm, oil on cotton

Knop is influenced by abstract expressionism and a large part of his work consists of geometric abstractions, yet he found his way back to figurative painting after years of experimenting, and trial and error. Yet, he states firmly, this formal aspect is too superficial to focus on – he is extremely political, angry about what is going on in the world today, and consumed with the question of identity in a globalised world.

Pierre Knop, Explorer
Explorer, 2018, 110 x 97 cm, oil on cotton

Knop’s political nature can be seen reflected in the themes and stories in his recent series of paintings for his first solo show in Germany: ‘And Left A Prey To Hazard Wild’, Setareh Gallery, 2017. Irony sweeps through his dreamscapes mixed with violent or contradictory scenes. Social structures, roles, relationships of domination, victim and perpetrator – these themes become somewhat abstracted and simplified in Knop’s paintings, leaving behind a strikingly immediate experience that presents the viewer with Knop’s different visions of our world.

News such as the rise of neo-fascists in France occupies Knop’s mind and won’t let him go. The clusters of people in his paintings become metaphors for these social networks and power structures. The artist is angry. And he channels his anger into his art.