Marc Selwyn Fine Art
February 27 to April 9, 2016
By MEGAN ABRAHAMS, MAR. 2016
K2, Channing Hansen’s new series of knitted abstract paintings, is largely characterized by nuance. These are compositions made up of subtle forms, texture, color and a variety of shifting knitted patterns comprised of exotic and variegated yarns and fibers. Not simply an unusual medium, the materials used are unique to the artist – in fact largely created by him. Hansen himself sources the yarns, then dyes and spins them, as an integral part of his process – before even reaching the phase of knitting and stretching the work on frames.
Up close, texture predominates, as with the thick ridges in the piece, K2: MR: 07, (2015, 72 x 101 inches) in which areas of yarn stand out in relief from the surface. Viewed from a few feet away, the contrasting textures seem to stabilize so that composition comes into focus, allowing the forms, shapes and patterns within the frame to connect in their complex matrix of yarn.
The pieces are complex partly because they involve a considerable variation of fibers including wool from myriad sheep sourced from all over the world, not to mention baby camel down, Alpaca, Merino, Quiviut, (from muskoxen) bamboo carbon fiber, holographic polymers, Tussah silk, viscose, mohair, redwood and more. The works also incorporate a range of texture and - to some extent - color, even though the artist restricts himself here to a limited dark palette dominated by browns, greys, black and white. Given the range of media, color and texture, however subtle, it’s all the more surprising to learn the series was inspired by the abstract painting Black Square, the finite iconic monochromatic statement work by 20th Century avant-garde Russian artist Kazimir Malevich. While Black Square may be enigmatic, its intention could be seen as declarative. The initial version of Black Square (there were four) was painted in 1915. Bold in its complex simplicity, it was a sort of gateway from Futurism to Constructivism. Hansen had only seen reproductions of the work until he visited Amsterdam’s Stedilijk Museum. The painting was a catalyst for the series - K2 – so named in reference to the CMYK printing process and the use of black in art history. The series evolved from sampling the CMYK values of the blackest section of several iconic paintings as represented in reproductions.
In the end, black is not so straightforward a concept. It’s not even a color, but rather the absence of color. Black is the manifestation of the absorption of all light. As to how this relates to his recent series, Hansen has explained, “the works are an exploration of ideas around light absorption and reflection, around originality and reproducibility, and around instantiation and infinity.”
Looking beyond the variegated colored yarns that make up Hansen’s abstract constructions, there is also literal ambient light seen in the openings between the knitted stitches. Light is admitted here, a concept explored in depth by Italian painter Salvatore Emblema (1929 to 2006), who painted on loosely woven textiles like sackcloth, allowing light to penetrate his work. Similarly, Hansen’s work is not just about the surface of the image, but includes the light filtering through the material and the shadows on the wall. In the piece, K2: AR:03, (2015, 84 x 93 inches) the knitted fibers are so loose, the skeleton of the horizontal and vertical stretcher bars is entirely visible through the knit yarn. The stretcher bars form 16 squares, somewhat resembling windowpanes, so that viewing the piece has the effect of looking out a window at a strange landscape in quiet browns. Light combines with all the other elements of these works to play a role in creating visual resonance. Numerous nuanced components create the composite thing, derived from whatever degree of black, that meets the eye.
Hansen began knitting with wooden needles in 2010. He uses computer algorithms to minimize the subjective influence in his compositions. This is the artist’s first solo show. His work was featured in the Hammer Museum’s 2014 Made in LA biennial. WM
Megan Abrahams is a Los Angeles-based writer and artist. The managing editor of Fabrik Magazine, she is also a contributing art critic for Art Ltd., Fabrik, ArtPulse and Whitehot magazines. Megan attended art school in Canada and France. She is currently writing her first novel and working on a new series of paintings.
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