Having studied under Joseph Beuys in the 1960s at the famed Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, Knoebel drew inspiration from Kazimir Malevich to make black and white canvases on which vertical painted lines divided up the pictorial space. From this time, the artist began working with industrial materials, such as plywood and fibreboard, thereby dematerialising painting and at the same time fulfilling Beuys' ideal of bringing art closer to life. Following the tragic death of his friend and classmate, Blinky Palermo, whom Knoebel viewed as the master of colour, the latter artist unleashed a torrent of tones into his work, transforming his sombre corpus into a sea of colour. In the 1990s, Knoebel adopted aluminium as his preferred material, which he would cut into different slices, paint in an array of different tonalities and fix onto a large panel. Schief und Schräg 3 is the culmination of his artistic progression through the decades, bringing together his talent for seriality and ability to use unconventional materials with his newly discovered taste for vivid hues.
Knoebel’s infatuation with seriality and colour is matched by his staunch resistance of art theory. “When I am asked about what I think when I look at a painting,” Knoebel has remarked, “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” (Imi Knoebel cited in: Exh. Cat., Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Imi Knoebel: Works 1966-2014, 2014, p. 24). In insisting on seeing painting simply as the physical object in front of him, Knoebel has much in common with his native contemporaries, Gerhard Richter and Günther Förg. Richter sought to eliminate his own artistic agency by adopting the squeegee in his paintings, while Förg proposed that abstract art was nothing more than what one saw.
Through tireless experimentation with seriality and colour, Knoebel is seeking what Malevich termed “pure perception.” Indeed, the artist's desire flows onto his painted panels and, in Schief und Schräg 3, metamorphoses into the present composition. Through the gaps between these aluminium bars we strain our necks, hoping, like Knoebel, to catch a glimpse of the fabled internal space of the mind.
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