A deep and tumbling kind of laughter - John Ward Knox

A deep and tumbling kind of laughter - John Ward Knox

27 February – 30 April 2016, Hocken Gallery | Free Entry

It would be easy to mistake the current exhibition at the Hocken Gallery for an empty space, so diminutive is the scale of John Ward Knox’s paintings. Yet what a deep and tumbling kind of laughter lacks in size, it makes up for in the intimacy, skill, and sheer beauty of the works. 

John Ward Knox is an artist living and working in Auckland, who was named the Francis Hodgkins Fellow for 2015. Marking the culmination of this period of his work, a deep and tumbling kind of laughter is an exploration of human forms and skin tone. You won’t find any selfies, spray tans, or artificial poses here; instead, Knox creates delicate close-ups of skin in shades of translucent porcelain, gently alluding to the curves and plains of human bodies. Smatterings of red tones, with tiny flecks of freckles break up the stretches of ivory luminescence, the cool white of the backgrounds hinting at soft interior scenes. 

“As a child…I used to see how many colours I could pull from the inky depths, and how with an upturned face I could find the sun or the bulb without recourse to specific vision. Since then I have known the skin as a thing not of opacity but of translucency and diffusion,” writes Knox. “When you gaze upon the skin of a lover or of a friend or of a dying relative or any human being what you are seeing is not the surface of an object but a subtle and fleeting display of depth.” 

Walking through this exhibition it is easy to find a sense of rest and serenity, each small painting showing a different angle of sinews, a different muscle stretching, a new constellation of freckles or rivers of veins in slightly new ways. The depth described by Knox is evident in the colours and subtle detail in each and every canvas. A new, more thoughtful understanding of the human body is proposed here, one more intimate and quiet than is easily found in the rush and artificiality of modern media. The space of a deep and tumbling kind of laughter provides a welcome sanctuary of stillness, and a valuable alternative way of seeing our physical selves. 

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2016.
Posted 12:52pm Sunday 1st May 2016 by Monique Hodgkinson.