Nick Nes Knowlton is a real painter, he paints things like Jesus. There’s nothing more serious than making a painting about Jesus and Angels and even the Devil. His paintings (or really we should be calling them Paintings) are caked in meaning, like a referential aggregate. Really just smeared right on there. And what better reference do we need? Things like Paradise Lost and the Bible, when pushed so strenuously through the precise lenses of Knowlton’s thought, can only bring liberty to the masses. I’m all about liberating the masses.
What’s important is that when we are exhausted by the full release of looking at the Paintings, the realization that there is absolutely nothing funny at all about the arduous task taken on by Knowlton. There is also nothing funny about poop jokes.
When religion is studied with true dedication (like when you really get both hands in there, when you aren’t afraid to get a little dirty in the muk) there are no ways to find moments of humor. I mean, look at those old Italian masters: those are the most solemn and serious paintings I can think of. This is because Raphael and Angelico didn’t ask silly questions like ‘should we question the dogmatic reading of these texts?’ or ‘is there a subtle and graceful way to bring subversion to a dialogue that, until now, seems to be totally uninterested in finding new ways to investigate its incredibly complicated source material?’ Furrowed brow, clenching muscles in thought, looking for the sense of lightness that such dedication brings to us, Knowlton invites you into a cathedral of sorts; one as clean and white as we could ever hope for.
Let us take time to relieve ourselves and appreciate something that is finally #1 dignified and earnest, and #2 firm and weighty.