“New Images of Block Island,” Kate Knapp’s show of recent oils-on-canvas, revisits Knapp’s favorite island places with fresh perspectives and a vibrant palette laid on with her characteristic dynamic brushwork. They are on exhibit from August 4-16, 2017, with the opening reception on Saturday, August 5, from 5-7 pm.
Reflecting recently on her work, Knapp noted that there are three constants in her life as an artist: truth, freedom, and love. For Knapp, painting what is true means being true to the feeling of what she is looking at. The ability to do this comes from acquiring a sense of freedom to express that feeling, and that freedom comes from a lifetime of discipline and practice. “At the heart of the ability to paint what is true — to see beyond the ordinary and to depict it freely — is love, the love of what one is doing, and for me, the love of Block Island,” she explained.
These constants are tangible in this new body of work. Painted in the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017, these views of Knapp’s favorite places may be familiar but they are always new, their mutable qualities seen from different angles and in different light. As a plein air artist, Knapp paints outside and “in the moment,” working to capture the tension and excitement of what she sees even as it is changing. In “Sailboat, House, and Heron,” the eastern light sets off the warm yellow siding and gabled red roof of the Hygeia House, and the simple lines of a sailboat at anchor in left center of the pond shimmer in the circles of its reflection, suggesting the rippling of the water in the tidal ponds. As Knapp was painting this scene, a heron alighted in the water — serendipity! Into the painting it glides, its graceful white curves reflected in the water in the right foreground.
Other works were created in this sense of spontaneity. “Spring Morning, Water View” is a sweeping scene looking east from the bend on Spring St. below the Spring House. Spikes of green and red branches of brush and wildflowers frame the rocks on the beach below. Waves roll in from the expanse of the blue, green and turquoise sea, while a fishing boat heads toward a horizon filled with billows of pale pink, peach, and yellow cumulus clouds lit by the early morning sun. Finishing this view and turning to leave, Knapp’s eye was caught by the off—kilter angle of the Spring House and its flagpole “seeming to rise organically out of the brush.” That is just the sensation evoked in “Spring House Flag.”
In “View from the Spring House Annex,” “ Red Rocker, Sullivan House Porch,” “View from Calico Hill,” and “Spring House and Stone Wall,” Knapp uses dramatic angles of vision to emphasize both the architectural details of the buildings and their relationship to the landscape. Two works have dramatic angles of vision used to very different effect. In “Spring Rodman’s Hollow,” we look down a steep path lined with spikey wildflowers and across a panorama of mounds of blooming shad trees, all silver and pink, to a distant sea and sky. In contrast, “Rocks and Waves” is a close up, near abstract view of eddies of blue and white water foaming swirling around rocks, their sharp contours defined in vivid red, orange, green, and purple strokes.
Several scenes evoke the serenity of Block Island in the off season or in an earlier time. In “Champlin’s Road View,” we look across a foreground of goldenrod to the ponds in the meadow below and out across the red roofs of the Coast Guard station and the cut to a the blue sea and a cirrus clouds streaking the sky. “Payne’s Dock, Great Salt Pond,” is an autumn view of the pond in softening light seen from the beach below the Narragansett Hotel with a few small sailboats anchored off shore. “Evening Light on Corn Neck” is a view of Mitchell Farm with soft shadows falling across the stone wall in the foreground while the gabled barn reflects the light from the setting sun.