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Julije Knifer

In the 1960s, aiming at the anti-painting, Julije Knifer created minimal means of expression using the method of reduction and, accordingly, chose a meander as a definitive form of his paintings. He used black-and-white contrasts, relations between the verticals and the horizontals in order to create a monotonous rhythm which for the artist represented the simplest and the most expressive rhythm.

Though very similar, Knifer's meanders were interpreted differently due to the period in which they appeared: first in the context of geometric abstractions and neo-constructivism of the New Tendencies of the 1960s, then their asceticism and interest for the absurd present in the anti-art of the neo-avantgarde group Gorgona (which was active in the 1959-66 period in Zagreb and under the auspices of which Gorgona no. 2, an artist’s magazine was realized) was emphasized. Minimalism and conceptualism changed conditions under which his paintings were supposed to be interpreted in the same manner as subsequent approaches would reveal numerous new connotations. However, his work envisaged and realized consequently could not belong to a single trend because Knifer constantly shifted from those painters who were formally similar to him. Knifer's work is based on an obsessive repetition of a single selected motif, realized via a longer time period, in numerous variations. It reflects the Sisyphean path which he has consciously chosen, an endless patience, and in the wording of the author himself a "non-development". He belongs to the circle of those distinctive artists who have incorporated in their work their attitude towards time and repetition in art: such as Roman Opalka, On Kawara or Hanne Darboven.

In his Notes (1977), Knifer writes the following: "In my case, time plays no role and I do not care when I made specific paintings. The chronology of my works is not important. I might have already painted my last painting and have not even made my first."

 

B.S.

1924, Osijek / HR, at that time Jugoslavija – 2004, Paris / FR

 


 

Please follow this link for a selected bibliography available at the ERSTE Foundation Library
Courtesy Insitute of Art History, Zagreb, Photo: Branko Balić
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