In 1913, Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1879–1935) made what is widely regarded as modern art's first entirely abstract work, the self-descriptively titled painting Black Square. As a student, German painter Imi Knoebel was inspired by Malevich's theory of Suprematism, which rejected all representational imagery in favour of the 'supremacy of pure artistic feeling'. When Knoebel joined Joseph Beuys' class at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1964, the young artist began his career-long exploration of the expressive potential of art's fundamental building blocks – line, form, colour and material.
Today, at 82, Knoebel creates an ever-evolving flow of nonobjective works. Ranging from geometric to freeform, from monochrome to multiple colours, they are inspired by his hands-on studio experiments rather than any overarching program. 'When I am asked about what I think when I look at a painting' Knoebel has said, 'I can only answer that I don't think at all; I look at it and can only take in the beauty, and I don't want to see it in relation to anything else. Only what I see, simply because it has its own validity.'
In White Cube Hong Kong, Knoebel presents two recent bodies of work in red acrylic paint on wood panels. Perhaps named for the afterimages they produce in the eye, the 'Green Flags' series, which debuts in this exhibition, takes the form of silhouettes of flying flags. The multi-part 'Konstellationen', the titles of which reference astronomical bodies, are inspired by the shapes cast on the interiors and exteriors of buildings by the artist's light projections of 1975, a fact referenced in each work's dual dates. Additionally, examples of the artist's "Kinderstern" multiples, in red and glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent paint will be featured in the exhibition. Proceeds from sales of these "Children's Star" works support a charity established by the artist and his wife Carmen that advocates for the human rights of children around the world.
Imi Knoebel was born in Dessau, Germany in 1940 and lives and works in Düsseldorf. He has exhibited extensively including solo exhibitions at Dia:Beacon, New York (ongoing); Museum Haus Konstrucktiv, Zurich, Switzerland (2018); Museum Haus Lange und Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany (2015); Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, K21, Düsseldorf, Germany (2015); Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2014); Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, Germany (2011); Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (2010); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2009); Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (2009); Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany (2004); Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (2002); Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia, Spain (1997); Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland (1997); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (1996); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996).
Concurrently, at White Cube Bermondsey, a major exhibition of Imi Knoebel's work titled 'Once Upon a Time' opens in February 2023.
Press release courtesy White Cube.