Nick Knight: Roses
Albion Barn is pleased to present Nick Knight’s first-ever major still life exhibition in the UK. A catalogue, with a foreword by Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie and interview between Nick Knight and Michael Hue-Williams, will accompany the exhibition.
Alongside four decades of a hugely successful and public commercial career, Knight’s constant desire to shoot and to experiment with his compositions has manifested in a series of still life photographs that have seldom been published or exhibited. These works, mostly shot in the privacy of his own home with very little by way of set or props or extra technical equipment, will make their UK debut this summer at Albion Barn, a large-scale exhibition space in Oxfordshire where the photographer is free to exhibit these exceptional examples of his restless journey with aesthetic margins against the ideal backdrop of the countryside. Two distinct series will be on view at Albion Barn; Knight’s Rose Photo Paintings and Roses from My Garden. Precise and filled with detail, the unified and harmonious photographs have an elegiac quality that dramatizes the transient nature of beauty.
The Rose Photo Paintings series is an opulent body of work that takes its roots from the work of 16th and 17th century still life painters like Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan van Huysum. These wonderfully balanced and seductive, large-scale still lives have a stunning romanticism. Major washes of color rip though traditional compositions that are anchored by antique vases and other formal trappings of flower paintings. To create them, Knight introduces heat and water during the printing process to encourage the inks to run across the print. These images aren’t created in Photoshop. It's a dynamic and very physical process that took him and master-printer Allan Finamore ten years to perfect. They are hybrids; literally part photograph, part painting. Stunning, joyous highlights push against the deep angst of darker areas. Knight pulls on the history of vanitas painting, encapsulating the fragility of a rose’s life cycle both in the composition and the medium; the roses are dying, the paint is dripping. He is documenting a moment slipping from our grasp.
In Roses from my Garden the photographer further speaks to this theme of beauty in decay. Clearly positioned within the great tradition of photographers who turn their hand to still life – like Imogen Cunningham, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tina Modotti, Irving Penn and Edward Steichen for example – Knight uses only daylight to study and to compose each set of roses that he picks from his garden, and yet each of composition is positively opulent. Bruised petals are submerged in water, broken stems make way for impossible compositions, darkness break soft pastels, petals break from their buds. Inherent in each composition is a fragility and an air of the ephemeral but Knight’s exacting standards, do not attempt to contain the wild, they embrace it.
Nick Knight OBE (b.1958) is a British fashion photographer who is also founder and director of SHOWstudio.com. He is an honorary professor at University of the Arts, London and was awarded an honorary Ph.D. by the same university. For the last forty years, Nick has shot award-winning images for commercial and editorial purposes. His groundbreaking creative collaborations with leading designers including Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen, alongside his vanguard advertising campaigns for prestigious clients such as Dior, Lancôme, Tom Ford, Calvin Klein or Yves Saint Laurent have helped to make him a household name in both fine art and fashion. His stories in British Vogue, W magazine, Dazed & Confused, Another Magazine and i-D magazine have all pushed the industry past the classic parameters of fashion photography, while his award winning music videos for Bjork, Lady Gaga and Kanye West have firmly established Knight as an eminent Director and Image Maker. His first book of photographs Skinheads was published in 1982, winning a D&AD award in 1996. He then went on to publish Nicknight, a twelve-year retrospective of his work, and Flora, a series of inimitable still lives, both published by Schirmer/Mosel. His latest book, entitled Nick Knight, was published by HarperCollins in 2009. His work has been exhibited at such international art institutions as the Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, Saatchi Gallery, the Photographers' Gallery, Hayward Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, The Daelim Musuem, and the Gagosian Gallery.