Karin Kneffel

Galerie Sophia Ungers

Karin Kneffel paints in ways that, seen superficially, seem like ironic and irksome internal measures aimed at pictorial deformations. Yet these canvases are anything but a painter’s Modernistic laments. In her depictions of animals, Kneffel takes energetic steps back into painting, toward painting. The very big- or very small-format works here show dogs, poultry, horses, rabbits, and wild boars. Bizarre, absurd, yet somehow appealing, these excellently painted animals, whether in masses or in isolation, consistently function as independent entities in regard to the overall composition. These creatures look realistic, but never naturalistic. Thus, the wild boar artificially and artistically springs through the dark-gray composition, lonesome and with a slightly somnambular squint. In a tension-provoking atmosphere, the hunting dogs wait amid plants, panting and wagging their tails. The dung heap is grandiose with its proud chicken on its summit, and a retinue of roosters and hens down below. Equally grandiose is the landscape in its classical gradation of space, with the calves crowding together in the foreground and the farm buildings in the background. Could we be dealing with kitsch paintings here?

Not in a million years: Karin Kneffel paints intelligent pictures. On the one hand, they evince warmth and sympathy toward their subject. Still, they owe allegiance to a cool, precise view of the world and they equal measures of contemplation and meditation. The use of traditional subject matter, the revelation of a fundamental painterly feeling, the making visible of the essence of a simple motif—these elements are the lifeblood of meditation. In contrast, the contemplation of these paintings requires an active role by the viewer. The precisely painted elements of reality serve the structure of the pictorial content alone. As esthetic devices, they are not an end in themselves; they become, rather, a part of the esthetic structure, that is, they themselves are composition.

Kneffel’s work aims at balancing the relationship between primary and secondary, between the composition of unreality and the composition of reality, and also between autonomous pictorial power and realistic depiction. The play between meditation and contemplation in Kneffel’s paintings gains new substance. Composition ventures, with seemingly known things, into the unknown, setting new standards in the process.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.