This was my favorite greeting card this season. After coming across Win Knowlton’s name only occasionally in the past decade, the image prompted me to call the artist directly knowing he wasn’t represented by Dinter Fine Art, the gallery that sent the charming, gouache evergreen.
Knowlton kindly offered to show me his work, my having expressed a yen for – surprise, surprise – his “drawings” on paper. I recognized the heady abstractions the moment he pulled them carefully from their archival storage drawers and was thrilled to see them in succession – varying sizes, changing palettes, dense and transparent forms, all on unique papers. There is an affinity here for the natural world, and I was interested to hear that Knowlton also works as a professional horticulturalist in public and private gardens. Reluctant to affirm that one informs the other, he is happy to engage in both disciplines with meaningful commitment to each craft.
I had just come from the Inventing Abstraction show at MoMA and saw a bit of Marsden Hartley in his rounded, geometric forms. Hartley had a healthy respect for forms and often outlined his representational images in black for emphasis, flattening their planes. Knowlton does not use outlines as his abstract forms suffice, the white ground that surrounds them providing sharp relief. Philip Guston, too, comes to mind, an artist Knowlton admires.
There is also a bit of Hockney here and there, the translucent blues, the water, the shorthand of repeated brushstrokes.
But sometimes I see what I want to see. Having always focused on Knowlton’s drawings, I realized I had neglected the importance of sculpture to his body of work. Fortunate to see it in situ, I was taken with its whimsy. There were containers – filled, small objets on tabletops and perforated, wiry forms, suspended, with birds and orbs. Again, there is a connection here – in the forms he plays with, artfully, the materials he mines, and the affinity to a natural world he closely observes, consciously or not.