“Wash” by Olivia Knapp
First featured here, Seattle based artist Olivia Knapp creates cross-hatched pen and ink drawings influenced by old European woodblock engravings. Specifically, Knapp pulls her inspiration from 16th through 18th century blocks, which were in all genres including religion, art, history, science and medicine. She borrows ideas from medical illustrations for her current exhibit at Hellion Gallery in Portland, “Prehensility”. The title refers to the quality of an appendage adapted for grasping, for example, as a monkey’s tail has adapted to grasping to a branch. The show is an extension of Knapp’s previous works in both style and theme, where she explores a relationship between psychology and biology in the context of one’s environment.
“Wash” by Olivia Knapp, detail
One aspect of Knapp’s work is its lack of color, which she believes adds to the mystery in each piece, as in her favorite, “Wash”. This image portrays an oozing heart showering liquid onto a brain. It reflects on Knapp’s overall play on anthropomorphization to illustrate the brain-heart connection. All of her drawings are created using her instantly recognizable complex pen and ink technique. Her renderings are a combination of cross-hatching, “line to dot’, and “dot and lozenge”, the same used in the 16th century. For Knapp, there is a link between her treatment of the medium and her narrative. She shares, “I am often asked why I use this time intensive hand done technique with pen and ink. Aside from enjoying the meditative process and the fulfillment of working with the craft, the labor and focus that goes into each piece supports the message behind the art. It requires patience, a steady hand and mind; all the qualities that are needed to overcome obstacles in life. This additive process with raw materials is one of commitment. There is no going back in time. With each organic imperfect line, I keep moving forward, knowing there is a larger picture to consider. I think these messages translate through aesthetic.”
“Prehensility” by Olivia Knapp will be on view at Hellion Gallery from August 6th through 29th, 2015.