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Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’ Ocula Conversation Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’

A group of voices accompanies me in the exhibition. They are singing words I cannot comprehend, yet the warm tunes are familiar: folk songs, love songs, songs of longing. There are letters, too. They speak of the quotidian details of a soldier's life: the hardness of the war, sending money to the family, and longing for familiar landscapes, food,...

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Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future Ocula Report Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future 11 Oct 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...

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Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum Ocula Insight | Video Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum 16 August 2019

Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...

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Karen Knorr

b. 1954, Germany

Born in 1954 in Frankfurt but raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Karen Knorr is a London-based artist who uses digital photography and moving image to create conceptual and multidisciplinary works. These works feature opulent interiors while critically and playfully investigating issues of cultural heritage, colonialism, class, and gender power structures. She has a BA Hons from the Polytechnic of Central London (1977–1980) and an MA from the University of Derby (1988–1990).

Knorr's earlier works lean towards social documentary. For example, 'Belgravia' (1979–1981) is a series of black-and-white photographs of the British upper classes in stiff or contrived poses in upper-class residences during the early Thatcher years. Her 'Gentlemen' series (1981–1983)—also black-and-white photographs—depict English gentlemen's clubs in Saint James', London, problematising gender and class divides. 'Country Life' (1983–1985) takes on the landed gentry class in their countryside surroundings and the manner in which objects fulfil class destiny. In all three series, her humorous and satirical texts accompany but do not illustrate the works, raising questions about the lifestyle, aspirations, and values of the British upper classes.

Knorr turned to colour photography in 1986 with 'Connoisseurs' (1986–1990), using Cibachrome to saturate and vivify the hues in her photographs of the interiors of homes and museums. Incongruous objects and comical subject poses were staged and photographed in these analogue prints to destabilise notions of connoisseurship, aestheticism, and beauty embedded within heritage culture. 'Academies' (1994–2005) continued the artist's investigation into museum spaces and fine art academies in Europe, reflecting a deeper theoretical and critical engagement with how Western fine art becomes institutionalised. With 'Fables' (2003–2008), she fused analogue and digital photography; digital photographs she took of live and taxidermied animals were collaged onto her analogue photographs of the lavish aristocratic interiors of castles, villas, and museums injecting a sense of the surreal and uncanny.

Knorr cites her 'India Song' series (2008–2017) as a turning point. For the series, the sumptuous interiors of palaces and holy sites in Rajasthan were photographed with a large-format Sinar p3 analogue camera, and digital photographs of animals such as peacocks and monkeys were subsequently painstakingly Photoshopped in, to index the Panchatantra—a collection of Sanskrit animal fables—and to challenge fixed notions of Indian cultural heritage, caste, and gendered spaces. Inspired by screen paintings from the Edo period (1603–1867), her 'Monogatari' series (2012–2017) portrayed the animals often featured on these screens within Japanese shrines, temples, and ryokans, referencing Japanese, Taoist, and Buddhist folktales. 'Metamorphoses' (2014–2018) continues her multidisciplinary explorations of heritage interiors, visual culture, literary frameworks, and social hierarchies.

Knorr won the Pilar Citoler International Biennial Prize for Contemporary Photography in 2011, and in 2018, she was one of six leading photographers awarded an Honorary Fellowship by The Royal Photographic Society. She currently teaches photography at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. She has presented solo shows at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India Song, 2017); Musée Carnavalet, Paris (Fables, 2010); and Shanghai Centre of Photography (with Anna Fox, Another Way of Telling, 2018), among others, and participated in many international group exhibitions. Her works are included in the collections of major museums such as Tate, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.

Biography by Elaine Chiew | Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

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The Wedding Guests, Belgravia Room by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrThe Wedding Guests, Belgravia Room, 2015 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
122 x 152 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Immaculate Conception, Villa D’Este by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrImmaculate Conception, Villa D’Este, 2015 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
80 x 100 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Brief Encounter, Palazzina Cinese by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrBrief Encounter, Palazzina Cinese, 2018 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
122 x 152 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
The Search for Sattva, Ahhichatragarh Fort, Nagaur by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrThe Search for Sattva, Ahhichatragarh Fort, Nagaur, 2014 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
122 x 152 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Ganesha's Stride, Abha Mahal, Ahichhatragarh, Nagaur by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrGanesha's Stride, Abha Mahal, Ahichhatragarh, Nagaur, 2015 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
60 x 76.2 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Master of Seduction, Amer Fort, Amer by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrMaster of Seduction, Amer Fort, Amer, 2017 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
122 x 152 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
The Way of Ishq, Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrThe Way of Ishq, Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, 2019 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
The Peers of the Realm, Entrance Hall by Karen Knorr contemporary artwork
Karen KnorrThe Peers of the Realm, Entrance Hall, 2015 Colour pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl Paper
122 x 152 cm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery

Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Karen Knorr, Migrations at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore
Open Now
21 September–16 November 2019 Karen Knorr Migrations Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976 - 1995 at Sprüth Magers, London
Closed
24 July–14 September 2019 Group Exhibition New Order: Art, Product, Image 1976 - 1995 Sprüth Magers, London

Represented By

In Related Press

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Singapore: Karen Knorr’s exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery pays an ode to majestic India Related Press Singapore: Karen Knorr’s exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery pays an ode to majestic India Architectural Digest : 26 August 2019

American/British photographer Karen Knorr has over the years developed a critical and playful dialogue with photography. From investigating patriarchal values of the English upper classes to the role of animals and their representation in art, ...

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LIFE & CULTURE The Story Behind Karen Knorr’s Riotous 1970s Series, Punks Related Press LIFE & CULTURE The Story Behind Karen Knorr’s Riotous 1970s Series, Punks Another Man : 30 July 2019

Karen Knorr was born in Germany to American parents and grew up in Puerto Rico, before studying in Paris and then moving to London. 'Here I was, this Puerto Rican American, and I was trying to understand British culture,' says Knorr over the phone from Washington DC, though she has been based in London since the 1970s. 'I did it through...

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Research In Progress: A Q&A with Karen Knorr Related Press Research In Progress: A Q&A with Karen Knorr Frontrunner Magazine : 15 July 2019

Born in Frankfurt, Karen Knorr (currently a Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey, UK) was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and then pursued her education in the United States, the UK, and across Europe, cultivating a dual perspective that would underscore her work. Having started her own 'movement,'...

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Gentlemen by Karen Knorr review – eminently clubbable Related Press Gentlemen by Karen Knorr review – eminently clubbable The Guardian : 31 October 2016

The trappings of inherited wealth and privilege, alongside the invisible, but strictly defined codes of the British class system, have long provided fertile raw material for photographers.

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In Video & Audio

Sofa Sessions: Conversations with Martin Parr - Karen Knorr Related Video & Audio Sofa Sessions: Conversations with Martin Parr - Karen Knorr Martin Parr Foundation : 6 August 2019

Photographer Karen Knorr joins Martin Parr for the sixth instalment of 'Sofa Sessions: Conversations with Martin Parr'. They discuss her educational background, approach to the use of text with image and having to become a wildlife photographer.

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