Is David Knowles a father first or an Artist first? I am sure he would not be able to separate the two. Perhaps he might even describe his children as his "major life's work", and indeed many of his important paintings include images of his wife Mary and each of their four children.
As a young boy, David grew up with a love of drawing, but only began painting in earnest in 1970 at the age of seventeen. Thirty years later, in 2000, he fulfilled his life dream of working as an artist full time; not the easiest option to take for this father of four. During this period Mary and David raised and educated their family - four fine young New Zealanders, and as each of them reach adulthood and move onto their own careers and life's work, David mused last year that he would like to make 2014 the year of his 'Magnum Opus'. He would choose to use his time creating a series of paintings which he considered would be among his ‘major works of art’ and would represent the themes which he has been constantly creating in his mind's eye.
2014 has begun well with the launch of 'Catherine's Butterfly’, painted in Renaissance style – a format David has loved and studied for many years, beginning in the late 1970’s with research and overseas travel to study the ‘Old Masters’ at close hand.
In 2007 David was able to put his research to the test when he was commissioned to create a series of ten Old Master copies, including De Vinci, De La Tour, Salviati, Caravaggio and a Bronzino portrait. The work was intense and included many hours of research into methods of painting, quality and mix of paint, types of canvas, and the life history of the artists whose works are now displayed and protected in the Galleries of Europe, viewed by millions each year.
David welcomed the opportunity to delve into the minds of these renowned artists and to recreate their work in size, scope and quality. He believes he achieved what he set out to achieve. Perhaps if he could sit down to discuss his work over a wine with the artists he was representing, he might have been commended by them.
David called on his expertise with Renaissance painting, and ‘Catherine’s Butterfly’ was created. He described the process as follows:
‘At the height of the Late Renaissance the technicalities of creating a three dimensional scene on a two dimensional canvas, had been mastered. In later centuries and eras these techniques were employed with only minor changes to detail and subject, all the way up to the Grand Romantic art of the 1800's. In 'Catherine's Butterfly' I have employed these same techniques, but with a slightly contemporary feel. Renaissance art was about grand themes and big subjects using people as the metaphor to convey the concept. In this painting I use the figure of a beautiful young woman (with a white tiger and a butterfly), to convey the theme of the glorious potential open to us as we approach adulthood. Overcoming and subduing challenges to glance toward the joy of our life directly and confidently. And on a broader scale it is the light of the human spirit that shines forth from the darkness. This painting is the fourth in the Butterfly Series, which explores the theme of the beauty and potential of the human spirit using a butterfly.
In the first painting, simply called "Butterfly", I introduced the idea with a butterfly about to take flight from a young woman's hand. She gazing confidently, almost challengingly, at the viewer. Although this painting was done in a crisp realist style, I had not yet explored the chiaroscuro effects of the 'light from the dark'.
The second, called 'Butterfly II', was essentially another version of the first, but a little less confrontational. Smaller, softer in overall tone, with the figure not looking at the viewer.
The third in the series, called 'Of White Tigers and Peacocks', was a huge departure. It involved the inclusion of two white tigers and two peacocks with the butterfly relegated to quietly sit on the shoulder of the figure. Metaphor drawn large. The figure surrounded by symbols of emotional life, the wild and the beautiful. Controlled.
And so to the fourth. 'Catherine's Butterfly', bringing the full power of Renaissance techniques to bear on the theme with the light emerging from the dark. Limiting the 'metaphor' to one tiger, placing the butterfly at its rightful place, the source of the light, and showing on the face of the figure with an open confidant expectation.
I consider ‘Catherine’s Butterfly’ to be truly a work of art. Could this be David Knowles’ Magnum Opus? The culmination in years of dedication to his craft and a love and appreciation of the human spirit captured on canvas.
As the artist creates, we have the opportunity to appreciate. We are a connection in each brushstroke. We are a part of David’s Opus. The work continues.
Watch this space