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1970, Osnabrück. Lives in London.

Using the simple materials of watercolour and gouache on canvas,
Silke Otto-Knapp makes awkwardly shimmering paintings that seem to want to escape their self-imposed limitations. The series that she produced as a result of her residency in İstanbul make no direct reference to the city, yet their atmosphere captures something of the quality of light and doubt that mark this place. The paintings depict landscapes and female figures and are based on photographs rather than taken directly from life. By doing so, the works flirt with artificiality, something emphasised by both their opulent gold or silver colour and their quiet, restrained composition. The figures themselves are all centrally placed, as if carefully prepared to welcome us, and their poses relate more to a theatrical moment than to a scene grabbed from everyday life. Yet their faces are left unpainted, like empty pages waiting for a role or an emotion to be assigned to them. This uncertainty is emphasised by the way the images are frequently washed down and overpainted, building up traces of former images underneath the final translucent surface.
The paintings are not portraits in the conventional sense but they carry a psychological charge through a stylised pose and costume, many of them being based on photographs from ballet and fashion shoots. Their appearance in the domestic setting of the Deniz Palas apartments is both comfortable and slightly troubling. The figures and landscapes become like characters and sets waiting for a domestic drama to begin, their actions suspended until another time.

Charles Esche


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