Robert Knoke

Jan 26, 2013


Although Robert Knoke’s painted portraits are one to one representations, he doesn’t portray his sitters realistically. The German-born artist, who lives in New York these days, rather illustrates the energy of a person than obvious features themselves. Nevertheless, his works constitute somewhat authentic – a reality that isn’t visible, but sensible instead.

As the title implies, Robert Knoke’s current solo exhibition Next – Zeichnungen und Polaroids presents a selection of both his drawings and works on Polaroid photographs. We met the artist at Cologne-based TEAPOT gallery and discussed his notion of portrait painting. Whereas he says, he tidies out notoriously, we got to know that he is meticulously keeping his stuff as well. He says, there are no photographies that he throws away as they could come to be his reference eventually.

Robert Knoke: Photographies are the basis of my works. I meet my sitters and photograph them. The actual drawing comes into being way later when I am back in my studio.

Wertical: Many of your sitters are well-known figures of our public life – Marc Jacobs, Walter Van Beirendonck, Rick Owens, Terence Koh, … You could make it easy and refer to an existing image findable in various magazines and the Internet, but it seems you put a premium on meeting each of your sitters personally.
RK: Yes, absolutely. I can’t draw a person without experiencing him or her – the appearance, size. I need to get an impression. Sometimes I even have to meet persons twice to be able to depict them. Of course, you can draw a portrait on site promptly, but I decline doing so. I’m not interested in classical portraits.

WE: Most of your drawings are black-and-white. In contrast, you add glitter, color or shiny fingerprints. Do you use this stylistic devices to emphasize the person’s character?
RK: No, it is nothing about the character. I’m neither aiming for a portrait that depicts the sitter straightly, nor for one that outlines somewhat typical. I’m not driven by prevailing features. I use persons merely as my starting point. As such, the final outcome is detached from the persons character. As soon as I am drawing, I am not consciously thinking about the persons any longer.

WE: But your portraits are representative nevertheless.
RK: Yes, in my handwriting.

WE: What inspires you?
RK: Music. When I am listening to music, I am so to say seeing sounds. This was also how this image came into being. {He points to a large-sized drawing showing Robert Alfons from Canadian music band TRST} If you listen to his music, you can imagine the pull that I was fascinated by and tried to depict. I am interested in reflecting the music and its energy. I think this is what all my works are about: the energy that I am fascinated by.

Robert Knoke

Next – Zeichnungen und Polaroids

January 25 – March 30, 2013
Herwarthstrasse 3
50672 Cologne