Saturday, March 21, 2009

Interview: Carla Knopp

                                              [image, ID 61, 58" x 48", oil on wood, 2009]

1- Did you always want to be an artist growing up? If things had been different, what other field of study (outside of art) do you think you would have considered?

I had a strong enthusiasm for art early on. I became the one in class who could draw, and then art became about skillful depiction and identity. I was clueless about career choices and didn't understand the role of the school guidance counselor. Somewhere in the fog, I realized that illustration was a justifiable art career, so I enrolled at Herron to become an illustrator. At Herron, I rediscovered my original enthusiasm for art, but as I did so, I moved away from applied into studio art. I regained the love, but lost my justification... (hello shame cycle)

I had a bookkeeping job in high school, and would probably have gone into accounting.

2- When I stand looking at your work, it immediately evokes some fantasy and/or alien quality about them. Is this an intentional aspect or theme in your work? What are the ideas, inspiration, motivation behind these works?

Aack! I hate thinking of my work in fantasy genre terms, but it raises an issue. I think there is some disparity between where I'm coming from and how my work looks; how it is perceived. I'm referring to the figurative scene paintings. Currently, these are not my main focus, but they represent my primary painting approach for most of my career.

I paint intuitively, seeking the discovery or the creation of meaningful imagery. I believe this matters. I did not fully believe in this process until I gave up trying to justify it. These landscape/fantasy-scape scenes are, for me as a painter, a morphing paint environment, in which I find metaphors, allegories, and narratives. With this process, I find ideas, sometimes very specific ideas, which I would never have thought of sans the process-prompting. The painted environment I end up with is somewhat of a default; I've not really focused on stylistic concerns (again, I'm addressing primarily pre-2006 work). The form of these paintings has mostly followed their concept-generating function. I only recently realized just how consistently "dreamy" and "fairy-tale-like" are the results stylistically, and as I stated, I sort of hate that.

Lately, I have been working in abstraction, and so have paid more attention to formal and surface considerations. I am assuming this interest in style and paint handling and non-figurative imagery will influence my more figurative work.

3- Do you build these paintings up intuitively, with no clear idea where the work is going or do you begin with a fairly clear concept and idea of how the work will turn out? Do you do preparatory sketches/drawings, photos, studies for these works?

I work intuitively, and really struggle with taking direction, even from myself. So I employ preconditions and frameworks when I want to steer the painting process. A precondition can be as basic as a general color scheme, or even one specific color. I may let my reaction to the various qualities of the chosen color(s) fuel and guide the process.

I'm very interested in frameworks. A good framework will focus the painting process in one way, but will allow me to explore in many other ways. The "Mounts" series seem restricted to a specific subject matter, but are actually products of a very elastic framework. The Mounts are earthwork structures of unknown origin, and unknown, but undeniable, purpose. They could be monuments; they could be memorials... They could be of human or alien or supernatural origin. They may exist as a painted depiction of a fictitious reality, or I may use the very act of painting these structures as a metaphor, for I am "building" them as I paint them. These considerations may compete or co-exist, and may be augmented, or usurped, by all sorts of formal meanders. Anything can happen, separately or simultaneously. It's all held together, both from the viewing end and from the creation side, by a simple subjective framework. That's freakin' liberating.

It's also somewhat deceptive because it reads superficially as a cohesive single intent, when it's really offering multiple artistic possibilities.

I follow an entirely different approach for my day job as a muralist and ornamental painter. I have no problem being very disciplined and restrictive in my commissioned work. I actually enjoy the balance I get here, where I must find the most efficient and direct path to a specific outcome. The pay is also more predictable.

                                              [image, ID 53, 54" x 48", oil on wood, 2009]

4- Can you go into further detail about some of your influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists, art movements, writers, etc.?

I like the inventive visual logic of Nozkowski. Brenda Goodman's work is personal and direct, but also is formally explorative. I feel a strong kinship towards her work. I really learned something from two local artists, Ed Sanders and Frederick Grue (the late landscapes). They each worked within an established genre; they were not breaking new ground, not overtly in art historical terms. Yet each managed to find and to signify places of profundity, where we can experience a certain perception, without fully comprehending it. Such work reminds me that individual innovation has various and surprising forms. New experience is generated by individual engagement, in any chosen genre.

Also, I am really inspired by musical artist Iggy Pop. He revels in an honest embrace of his own dumb guy persona. I want to emulate this openness.

5- Is there a specific message you strive to convey to viewers concerning your art?

Short answer is that I don't have a specific message to convey.

I'm just looking for what can happen next, not what will or should happen. (What "will or should happen" are often obstacles, though, which do play a role in my painting process). When I try to work with a tangible message, the process switches over into illustration. Then regardless of how intuitively I may proceed, I'm working towards a known desirable goal. I'm illustrating rather than exploring. It's better when I let the message fall away, or use it as a framework, to trigger an imaginative ramble.

I'd rather go out to where I don't fully understand what's happening, and I even set up intentionally bad, stupid situations to get there. I lose a lot of paintings.

I have to add my point about justification; about liberation from this need. Once you start discovering these artistic territories, where you really are introducing a new experience, you lose the need to justify your work. It no longer needs to provide a definable social function. It no longer needs to be art historically relevant. It no longer needs market success. You realize this individual investigation is not self-indulgence in need of auxiliary justification. You realize that it is a very generous act.

6- How do you think being a painter in the Midwest has impacted your practice, either for good or bad, or do you feel it has had no real impact? Do you question whether you should move elsewhere for the sake of your art career?

I'm most concerned with the best scenario for art-making, and I see my career as a one factor in this goal. In theory the Midwest should be one of the greatest places to make art. The cost of living is low and there really is no single power structure, no deep market, determining our artistic culture. It's pretty easy to maintain an independent perspective and approach to one's art here. I bristle at top-down drives to steer Indianapolis towards a conventional contemporary arts brand. This may be beneficial in some ways, but it needs a bottom-up counter-point.

I don't know that municipal parties can represent the arts any differently, but individual artists can. We can use marketing in a revelatory capacity, not to create an identity brand, but rather as an ongoing attempt to better reveal the truth of our work. This is just a broader application of what we already do as artists. We present a physical incarnation of intangible ideas. I think precise and insistent verbalization is very necessary right now. In a world flattened by a surface reading of content, we can build a meaningful context for our work, just by presenting it thoughtfully, consciously, and conscientiously.

Art offers us a vibrant and expansive human experience. I feel equally equipped to tap into that here in the Midwest, as anywhere else. Of course, had I been told over and over that I must stay in Indy to be an artist, I'd have moved elsewhere. Reverse psychology is my nemesis.

                                              [image, ID 47, 58" x 48", oil on wood, 2009]

7- Where can your art be viewed at this time? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

As of the end of this interview, I am adopting my very own "put up or shut up" policy. I'm going to focus more on physically presenting my work, as opposed to (or in addition to) on-line blogging about it. I do have a show set up for my large shaped panels. It is a year away, and I don't want to announce before it's on the venue's schedule, but I'm excited about that. I have two other bodies of smaller work which have not been shown, and I just made a goal to set up these two shows within the next year. They do not require a gallery-type space like the shaped panels do, so I can think outside the cube for these.

In the fall, I will be involved in an exhibition at House of Jsu, formerly Utrillo's, at 3318 East 10th Street. This gallery/picture shop has transitioned into a pretty interesting conceptual entity. This show will be invitational and the details are still being worked out. Artists are invited to make their dream thrift store art painting. What painting would you love to find in a thrift store or flea market? What would you want someone else to have painted? We will have more information by mid-summer, but anyone who may be interested in participating can e-mail me with their contact info. cknoppatcarlaknoppdotcom.

My site,, has my personal art portfolio and links to my blog and CK Art Company, my mural site.

8- Is there one question you would love to never have to answer again in your life in relationship to your art or practice? If so, what is that question and what about that question bothers you so?

“What kind of art do you do?”
This makes me panic a little, but I'll admit, I often ask this question of others. I don’t have a good prepared answer, and it’s usually asked in a situation where we don’t really have time to go into it. Can I use art terminology with this person? Should I talk about process or materials, specific ideas or general motivations? It’s much less an issue now that I can say “Abstraction” and then gauge how to continue.

9- Any parting words of wisdom or advice?

Beware of covert oppression.

For further information about Carla Knopp and her art works, check out her web site.

5 Responses to “Interview: Carla Knopp”

Lirio said...
March 21, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Cool interview....I can dig it!

Anonymous said...
March 21, 2009 at 8:37 PM


Lirio said...
March 22, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Keep on trucking too!!!

Anonymous said...
March 22, 2009 at 3:36 PM


As a admirer of your painting I have to say I think the very best thing about it is sometimes humor and always mystery. I like going on the journey to meaning that your paintings invite. Thanks for the invitation.

LOVE the simultaneous suggestion of vaguely obscene in these shaped canvases. I am starting to think they are as much about carnality (in the broadest sense) as they are about space and form.

Carla said...
March 22, 2009 at 9:25 PM

Carnality is an interesting and apt description. I like that a lot. Thanks

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