One thing that has been noted about lockdown life is that for many artists it has been an unusually productive year. At a time like this, the creative urge is an imperative, a comfort, and a means of communication – and for Karen Knorr, who the gallery has represented for over a decade, it has been one of the most fruitful years in which not only has she created an unusual number of new works but she has used social media and her art to raise significant sums to support other artists in need.
After a successful career starting in the 1970s blending social documentary and conceptual practice, in 2008 Knorr began her acclaimed “India Song” series after a life-changing trip through Rajasthan. Knorr’s meticulously crafted images placed native animals in ravishing Indian interiors creating their own fictional and metaphorical narratives and using the most refined applications of Photoshop to essentially bring the creative process of painting to photography. For photographers in the new digital world, if you could imagine it you could create it. But it could only succeed as what would generally be considered a “valid” work of art rather than a gimmick if it was executed with originality, seriousness, the utmost skill, and the highest leap of imagination. Knorr’s pictures succeed on all these levels.
While Knorr’s images take some of their inspiration from the Indian tradition of personifying animals in literature and art, there is another almost subconscious strain to her work. We humans are unique in our drive to create and engage with the arts. Going back to the earliest cave paintings at Lascaux in France, at Sulawesi in Indonesia, and Laas Gaal in Somalia we see that ancient humans not only recorded their lives through art, but they also used art to express themselves. The depiction of animals in symbolic and powerful ways and the urge to create these images with the best tools at hand is a line stretching from these unnamed prehistoric cave painters to Karen Knorr.
We define our human experience by the culture we create and the culture we enjoy and Knorr’s animals gift us with a unique and original expression of what it means to be human, and to see hope and optimism and beauty in art.
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