Arts review: Paintings by Frank Knott at Ace Space, Newbury
The bar at Ace Space is hosting a vibrant exhibition by painter Frank Knott of landscapes and townscapes, both local and European.
The painter works with simplified forms and an often saturated palette, recalling the exuberant colours and approach of the Post-Impressionists and particularly the Fauves. Thick paint, often in heightened and non-realistic colour, is applied with bold, free, confident brushstrokes, giving this show a joyous feel. Paint is often applied as an impasto, adding to the intensity of the images.
It can be difficult to appreciate the essence of the familiar – we see more clearly and imaginatively in unfamiliar or newly seen surroundings – but these works show Knott steeped in the landscape he knows well: they are deeply observed and decisively expressed.
The works vary from representation to semi-abstraction. In some of the figurative compositions, the motifs are heavily outlined in black, lending buildings both a monumentality and a simplicity of form: in ‘Portuguese Landscape’ this technique is applied on a small scale in a rural setting; in ‘Bagnoregio, Italy’, the outlined buildings and empty urban space lend the picture an enigmatic, surrealist, de Chirico quality. In the two pictures of ‘St Anthony’s Head’, with their thickly and surely applied paint, the dominant outlines almost claim more importance than the forms they delineate.
In the abstracted works, blocks and sweeps of saturated colour suggest the ever-changing typography of the landscape, its undulations and twists, its openness and hollows, and the constant mutation of light upon its surfaces and features. Here some of the simplified forms are stylistically naïve in their boldness and directness, with the smaller pictures particularly successful. ‘Sunrise’, Greenham’ is almost entirely abstracted, with the sky dominating seven-eighths of the composition above the dark earth: it has the palpable coldness of a chilly early morning.
Within his approach, colour range and technique, Knott can find both delicacy and vigour. He uses gentle hues – soft greens, blues and purples – in some landscapes, as in the peaceful ‘From Combe’, imbued with a deep sense of place, and in the light touch of ‘Beech Tree’. Stronger blues and greens are seen in ‘Road to Orvieto’. ‘Towan Beach, Cornwall’ and ‘West Woodhay’ demonstrate both compositional and colourist brio.
This very pleasing show can be seen by all those attending events, classes and workshops at Ace Space, or by appointment with the artist. It runs until the end of January.