Monday, October 17, 2011

Interview With Michael Knight

Michael Knight
Limited Edition Digiglyph, Ed. Of 8  
28” x 36”
 Michael Knight's digiglyphs on canvas continue his multifaceted metaphorical exploration of the complexities of human migration.

Can you teach somebody to be an artist or is it an innate ability?

As an art teacher of more than three decades experience, I believe that just about anyone can be taught to make art. In the same way that humans have developed the ability to communicate verbally, they have also learned to communicate on a visual level. In fact, we only have to look to a young child to see that they often scribbling out their impressions of the world around them with a carefree abandon long before they are able to speak (innate artistic ability). Just as there are guidelines that help to organize verbiage, thus clarifying our thinking, so too we use the elements and principles of design to organize visual compositions and to clarify our thinking. These guidelines of visual communication have remained constant through history and along with content, form the basis of art criticism. How to apply these guidelines and the manipulation of materials and techniques can be imparted to others (artistic teaching). However, I also believe that there are inborn personal traits such as desire, commitment, aptitude, initiative and passion that will make developing these artistic capabilities easier to master.

Have you participated in migration yourself? Is your perspective on migration born from experience and/or observation?

Wow! Mapping the course of my relocations would produce quite a circuitous route and has provided a personal perspective on the implications of human migration. Born in Oakland, CA, I soon ended up in the Bronx, NY after a layover in Southern Arizona. Greenwich, CT, Old Saybrook, CT, Mamaroneck, NY were all stops before I came to LA and the San Fernando Valley. As a youth I traversed “The Valley” calling perhaps 12 different locations home. Next was LA 90034 and now LA 90066. Finding my way to and from those locations and being immersed in the environments and cultures that I found there has shaped many of my views on this shared human experience. Observing and reflecting upon how these same activities affect the lives, thoughts, actions and behaviors of others is at the crux of my current process. 

Crows are a recurring element in your work. Why crows? Why not parrots or penguins?

Crows first appeared in my artwork during my graphite/tornado series about five years ago. I became aware of them while out walking my dogs in my Mar Vista neighborhood. I would see large groups of black birds flying South and East in the morning and North and West in the evening. As I walked, I mused about the metaphorical connections between the way these cunning survivors would travel to insinuate themselves into an area, and find a way to thrive there. I also noticed that their arrival was met with mixed sentiment. This then led me to find connections to human migrations and especially immigration. To me, these crows became the ideal symbol to use as I questioned these essential issues in my art.

Michael Knight
HYY 80
Limited Edition Digiglyph, Ed. Of 8
26” x 36”
How do the digital and handmade aspects of your work complement each other? How does each support the other?

I have been involved with printmaking for about fifteen years. Initially I explored transfer prints, photo etching and monoprinting. More recently I became interested in digital printmaking, and in the digiglyph, I have found the perfect blend of handmade and digital art making. Creating hand drawn monoprints became a major focus. Along the way, I experimented with digital art making as well, finding the ability to layer imagery fascinating and similar to that which is present in monoprinting. In my current work I begin with a hand drawn monoprints of crows using only black ink on white paper. That image is then scanned and added digitally to images of maps that establish location, destination and movement. I use my artistic training to guide the manipulation of compositional issues and color considerations viewed on a monitor.  Concentric rings that represent time, growth, travel and change are then added, both digitally and by hand, to an image that is outsourced to paper or canvas.

Where do you your find inspiration for your works?

Process is the core of my inspiration. My goal is to create images that question the constant evolution of societal pressures, cultural identities and definitions of self, tempered by intellectual control and emotional response. I encourage the viewer to examine the world beyond the art and beyond the frame. To that end, my artwork explores distinctions between the inherent and the refined, the organic and the geometric, the worldly and the spiritual, the male and the female, the cerebral and the impassioned. This contrasting nature of the universe, as I perceive it, is ever present.

What is your thought process while making an artwork? Or, Can you take us through the steps you go through when creating a new piece?

I am always taking photos of crows with the overarching migration theme lurking in the back of my mind. In the studio these two occurrences intersect as I create a monoprint drawing and gather the resources that will form the final composition. Next, images are scanned, and the digital fun begins. Although I start with a concrete plan, I also embrace, even seek, the unexpected discoveries I find while manipulating the numerous digital layers in the computer. I find combining new and age old technologies intellectually and physically satisfying. They seem to round out both sides of my Gemini personality and provide a yin/yang balance to my life. The finished prints are a bonus. 

Whom do you make art for?

I make art mostly for myself as a way of reconciling my ideas and understandings of the world around me with those of others. Rather than offering visual opinions, I prefer to pose questions to those who view my work. I would like them to share in my questioning of our world and its constructs. It is my way of saying, “Did you ever notice this?” and if so,  “What do you think about it?” 

Michael Knight
Photo by Danny Moloshok

Michael Knight's exhibition opens November 1, 2011.

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