Katelynn Noel Knick visited by Erin Latham

Katelynn Noel Knick is a painter and installation artist based currently in Norman, OK. Knicks’ work is boldly intuitive and heavily process based. Through her interplay with space, form, and materials, her work creates a sense of fascination and imagination in the viewer, and allows for them to step outside of themselves to consider the spaces around them.

Can you tell me about your process?

I start my process usually with a sketch, usually in my sketchbook. I draw in pencil and then layer in with color and forms that move around the surface. Lately, I’ve been using these sketches to then inspire my larger paintings and spatial works and use them as reference.

I was drawn to painting in school and began taking sculpture classes. My work is very intuitive, reactionary, and autonomous work and based in abstraction that lets the work tell you what it wants to be. The rest of my life is more controlled so when I’m creating work it is easy to have the intuitive conversation and let the work become what it wants to be.

How did you get started making work in this vane?

It started in my undergrad work at the University of Oklahoma. I took my first painting class with Marwin Begaye. He did a project where we weren’t allowed to use representation, instead he would roll die and we would paint and draw different colors and marks based on the number combination. It really clicked with me and that’s when I decided to pursue abstraction. At the same time, I was taking contemporary sculpture classes and was challenged with making objects. I used skills that I already knew, such as sewing and incorporated the subject matter from my paintings into three-dimensional forms. Through continuing sculpture classes, I explored more with other materials and was introduced to other techniques like metal and wood fabrication, 3D modeling and printing, and started to explore spatial works.

Have any other experiences outside of school affected your current body of work?

I went to Anderson Ranch Art center for a workshop with Holly Hughes who teaches painting at RISD, and is an amazing relief painter. The course was called “Not Flat” and was about turning 2D work into something more sculptural. I planned to go and create a bunch of studies using different materials, foam and paper and just make as much as I could while I was there. Breaking down the painting and adding three-dimensional forms has begun to elevate the work to the processes I’m now working with.

Are you creating your installations like paintings, in the same thought process or creation process? How do your paintings turn into installation?

I take the space I’m doing the installation in and imagine it as a blank canvas. Using the nooks and crannies and the big open spaces and try to imagine my work filling it in and inhabiting the space. I incorporate the movement and forms used in my paintings to guide and inspire how I will be laying out the installation and go from there. Sort of like a map. I use painting techniques and ideas like blending, layering, line quality, negative space, and color combinations when creating the spatial work. This is a fun challenge I’ve given myself to create this same effect but with materials. How do I recreate this big yellow blob with pink spots using layered paper, thread, and chicken wire? Or how do I convey this white blended texture using plastic trash bags?

Are movement and direction important to your work?

Movement is important because it creates space, taking a flat space and being able to create directional space with it becomes interesting to me. Even though you aren’t able to physically move through a painting, you can still move throughout them visually. I am considering transitioning this idea to my larger installation work in order to create the same feelings the painting evokes. I want the installations to have the same juxtaposition of stillness and energy.

How do your materials affect the content of the work? Is it important the materials have had a previous life?

The type of materials is not as important to me as their function or potentiality of function. I use a materials that have a previous life or ones that don’t, ones that have specific intentions and ones that don’t, it’s really a mixture. I always alter them to make them my own, through dying, cutting, melting, painting, whatever the material will allow and whatever the piece calls for.

How is wonder conveyed in the work? What is important for you in creating this sensibility in the viewer?

The idea of wonder really comes from the process of creating and the process of asking questions. I’m not really trying to create a sense of wonder through spectacle, but instead I really enjoy how my work creates a sense of wonder through association and curiosity. When people walk into their favorite coffee shop and utter “Oh!” because there is a floating sculpture, which wasn’t there the day before. The moment when all of a sudden everyone’s looking at the ceiling they never really considered before. That’s my favorite moment. My paintings also create this moment in a different way, when people see specific forms in my paintings and say “This reminds me of…” and share with me what they think the painting is or looks like to them. I think that’s the powerful thing about the style I’m doing, people can have a connection with it that’s fun and surprising and not exactly what they were expecting.

You talk about altering what art can be, but are you also interested in elevating materials from everyday experience?

A lot of that comes from the practice of using raw and altered materials. For example, I enjoy using plastic trash bags because I can get them in large amounts; for a low cost, and they work well for the purpose I’m using them. Trash bags are something, which is recognizable, but after I alter and repurpose them, people have a difficult time identifying the material even though they use it everyday. I love the idea of using “non-art” materials to make fine art, and asking the audience and art institutions, why are we not using everyday materials to create high art?  Someone told me during a critique they thought this was very political, but in a subtle way. I never thought of myself as a political artist but I do believe that encouraging people to question things is important.

Where is the work going next?

Since I’ve graduated I’ve done several installations but recently have been on a break to focus on painting, which inspires the installations. I’m excited to do a large-scale installation this summer for my solo project at IAO Gallery inspired by this new body of paintings. My first solo show will be comprised of an immersive installation. It opens July 14th and the Individual Artist’s of Oklahoma gallery space. I am influenced by artists like Judy Pfaff and using negative space in the paintings and create this work as installation in the space. Right now I’m still working on painting in this style and exploring how that can become spatial work and how I can refine this process. Also considering applying for graduate school to begin an MFA program.

For more information about Katelynn please visit her website.