STRINGING THE ART WORLD ALONG:
Art Dealer SARAH HASTED Interviews German Artist MANUEL KNAPP
WHEN I FIRST EXPERIENCED the work of young, German artist, MANUEL KNAPP, it was last summer in July. I was on a whirlwind art tour of Swabia,Germany, a passenger in a 911 Porsche, visiting private museums, meeting art collectors, and enjoying the most spectacular meal I have ever eaten in my life. Situated in the heart of the small village of Grossglattbach, in the attic above a small restaurant called the Lamm, owned by a husband and wife team, is their son, Manuel Knapp's unique atelier. After eating, not one but two dinners (no joke), I climbed up the steep steps in my high heels and full belly, to the studio. On the top floor of this traditional German, half timber house, is a thoughtful showcase of sophisticated, complicated and truly obsessive, 3 dimensional works made entirely of string.
Knapp's art works have been acquired by private and public art collectors, and the permanent collections of some of the most prestigious private museums in the world, Kunstwerk: Sammlung Klein and theMuseum Ritter:Sammlung Marli Hoppe Ritter, and the Collection Pforzheim, additionally, he has been commissioned to do site specific works, and his art career is just beginning.
Perhaps I am attracted to Manuel's intricate and meticulously hand woven works because they remind me of the American Indian textiles that I grew up with in New Mexico, or simply because they are a perfect combination of what happens when organic materials meet an obsessive mind. Whatever the reason for the attraction, the works are undeniably magnetic.
I encourage a studio visit with Manuel, go with an empty stomach, savor every delicious bite, then go upstairs and feast your eyes on Manuel's remarkable art works, the whole experience will not only leave you wanting more, but will be one of the most authentic and genuine experiences you will ever have....you can thank me later.
SH: When did your work first get attention?
MK: In the summer exhibition of my last year of studies in 2013, a gallery from Stuttgart named Von Braunbehrens asked me to collaborate. In January 2014, Mr. Peter Klein invited me to join in a group exhibition at his private museum, Kunstwerk: Sammlung Klein in Nussdorf, Germany. In 2015, ART-magazine introduced my work in their newcomer folder. This article inspired a German television station to do studio visit. In 2016, the Ritter Collection acquired one of my works and I participated in an exhibition at the Museum Ritter: Sammlung Marli Hoppe Ritter.
SH: Would you call yourself a sculptor?
MK: No. I feel more like cook that improvises after losing the recipe or a scientist that has lost his topic.
SH: How did you discover and develop your style and medium of working with string?
MK: I stumbled across the string as a material coincidentally. When I spent a semester abroad in Tallinn (Estonia) 2012. I was struggling with a project to build a minimalistic object out of matches. I used the string as a helping line to create a cube in the room. My aim was to follow these lines with a burning match and freeze this movement in a long exposure picture. In the end, the string cube became the most interesting point of the project. From that day I started to do research about the strong presence of strings in space.
SH: Some of your work is very much about architecture and geometry, order and others are about fantasy and fiction, illusion and messiness, can you talk about this?
MK: As a sportsman I love to check out my mental and physical limits. That brings the messiness. I only work with tight strings in straight lines - that naturally causes geometry. The illusion is the picture language where I started. I created everyday objects like chairs, tables and stairs. Our brain automatically characterizes them as functional and useable. These practical expectations create the strong dissonance of what we see and the feeling that we get. I work on the edge of what is capable by the human eye the appearance seems like an illusion. But the use of simple material underlines the irritation and makes the spectator questioning what he believes is fact. This basic question is my playground.
SH: Have you ever done a commissioned work?
MK: I created one art-piece for Mr. Peter Klein placed in a coffee shop nearby his art museum. The challenge was to cope with the strong deflection of this public space. Instead of using a black/white solution, I generated a multi-colored texture that is always changing with the light and perspective. In this case the only limitation was the dimension of the piece.
SH: Tell me about your family and upbringing?
MK: I grew up in a small village of 25.000 citizens in the south of Germany. It is located in an agricultural countryside. My parents own a small restaurant nearby since I was born. We lived with no luxury but it never felt like something was missing. Still today I think that the important things in life happen apart from money. Hard work will bring you success but never forget about good food and good friends.
SH: Describe your studio and what you do when you aren’t working on your artwork?
MK: My atelier is located above my flat under the roof of a half-timbered house. It is a historical technique of eastern architecture. I restored the space with friends by recycling given material. So the unique personality of the place remained. The spirit of improvisation and imperfection of the atelier also influences my work. For living, I am working as a gardener and waiter in my parent`s restaurant. In my spare time I love to travel, doing long walks in the nearby forests and countryside or meet with friends for barbecue. This is home to me so I stayed there throughout my studies instead of moving to the bigger city.
SH: Why are you so disciplined?
MK: I guess the answer is love. I love what I am doing so for me the efforts I have to take, like 1000`s of knots and nails, do not feel like boring or torturous work. It is more an enjoyable meditative challenge that keeps me patient and focused. If you really love to do something it does not matter how much effort you have to invest as long as you are convinced with the result.
SH: Have you ever thought about doing site specific work?
MK: I have worked on several site specific installations. For me a site specific project starts with the given space and the architecture around. I search for locking points to combine the constructive possibilities with the ideas I have in mind. Then I will think of the spectator and his perspective on the installation. These factors decide about the form of the construction. In 2016, I realized an Installation for the Ritter Museum in Waldenbuch, Germany. In this special case the meaning of “site specific” was not only referring to the place itself, but also to the desire of the collector which is focusing on color and squares. In this sense I created “the big orange” that felt like a perfect match because it was a huge scale analysis and questioning of these topics.
SH: How long does it take you to make the average work?
MK: It depends on the complexity of the structure. When I have the composition in mind it takes between one week and one month. As I only follow a mind map I am never sure if the idea can be realized. That is the magic moment of the last knot.
SH: Who is your favorite artist?
MK: It is a Canadian musician named Chilly Gonzales. In all of his compositions from rap to pop to classical piano pieces you can always feel his humor and personality. I guess this is the gift of a genius.
SH: Are you on social media?
MK: To keep in touch with my friends from abroad I visit FB once in two weeks. The fact that I have no smartphone stays a funny scandal in my circle of friends. I enjoy the freedom of not being online and reachable constantly.
For inquiries or to view more works please visit:
SARAH HASTED sarahhasted.com
MANUEL KNAPP manuel-knapp.com