The Belgravia series had me in splits. I loved the style of photography with textual quotes accompanying them, giving the images altered meanings altogether, a satirical twist and some real life seriousness to them also. I also tried playing with the texts, replacing them with my own thoughts and saw the works take on a new meaning. I quite enjoyed doing that as I myself use text with my images very often and therefore particularly liked Knorr’s work for that. The black and white theme for this collection, muted the richness and opulence of these photographs, which otherwise in my opinion would have overpowered the text or the whole meaning that was perhaps desirous by the artist. The B&W theme also takes you straight to the subject, without confusing you within the opulent background and the text accompanied therefore becomes straight and to the point. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Also the fact that the text are not actually the thoughts of the people in the image add a humorous twist to the imagery attached and makes it even interesting for the viewer. Some of them, attach a sense of serious thought as well, making one think.
What makes the work powerful is both the image and text together, neither of which would have had such an impact if viewed in isolation. Having looked at historical paintings while researching, most paintings that represented rich upper classes were impressive and pleasing to the eye, but the combination of image and text in Knorr’s work makes it funny and sarcastic, without losing the realism that photography as a medium represents. It was interesting to contrast it with Hunter’s work who took the mostly neglected large middle class community and raised them on to a pedestal via his works, and Knorr’s work who took the minority rich class, representing their every day life and took a humorous dig at them.
I could not hold myself to research more into her work as I instantly had a connection with her work and wanted to explore more of what she has done. “The Lanesborough” was a particularly interesting series so was the Indian Song. I found all of her animal series particularly interesting because of the unique compositions that it created. Her Japanese series inspired by Japanese art, imbibed the Buddhist Jataka tales along with Japanese folk tales stories of the supernatural into her photographs if temples, shrines, ryokans and gardens in various locales.
Her work in India, India Song, while celebrating the rich visual cultures, the stories and myths around society and class of Northern India, particularly Rajasthan and its intrinsically beautiful palaces and old havelis, deal with caste, femininity and its relationship to the animal world. Superimposed images of animals into images of palatial corridors and rooms of past princely estates, palaces, temples, mausoleums of bygone rulers, not only create illusions blurring the boundaries between what is real and what is not, but also questions the false prides and ego that divided India and still divide it into a rigid hierarchical class and caste structure. She brings the past into the contemporary just like Hunter did, but yet so different in her approach. It re-weaves the tales of the Panchtantra on one hand but in my opinion also highlights the plight of endangered animals that India is failing to protect, perhaps just like the hundreds of victims of the class war that it did in olden times. The injustice is starkly visible in her works as much as the beauty and visual appeal of it.
Satire is one of the most powerful weapons of speech in a free society. It stirs the collective consciousness against oppressive governments and laws, rulers, the rich and powerful (look at Voltaire and the rich tradition of political cartoons in the modern world, all the way to the biting social commentary of freedom of speech warriors like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin), and moreover points a mirror at we ourselves as individuals: exposing the hypocrisies and frailties of our individual positions on issues — hopefully getting us to see where others are coming from in how they view the world. Thus, satire also takes tremendous steps to opening up dialogue on the issues where it had otherwise been stifled — penetrating that wall through a universal language of humor: if we are only willing to give a little introspection and laugh at ourselves. – Wess Haubrich(Haubrich, 2017)
Key points and learnings from Knorr’s works-
- Amalgamation of the old & new
- Critical Enquiry
- Digital Collage
- Reality & Illusion
- Visual & textual
- Visual Impact
Fig 1 Knorr K. (1979) Belgravia. [Photograph] At: https://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/ (Accessed on 16/04/2020).
Artnet.com (2020) Karen Knorr | Artnet. At: http://www.artnet.com/artists/karen-knorr/ (Accessed 16/04/2020).
Artsy.net. (2020) Karen Knorr: 181 Artworks, Bio & Shows On Artsy. At: https://www.artsy.net/artist/karen-knorr (Accessed on 16/04/2020)
Danzigergallery.com (2020) Karen Knorr: Artists / Danziger Gallery. At: https://www.danzigergallery.com/artists/karen-knorr (Accessed 16/04/2020).
Karen, K. (2020) Belgravia | Karen Knorr. At: https://karenknorr.com/photography/belgravia/ (Accessed 16/04/2020).
Sundaramtagore.com (2020) Migrations – Karen Knorr – Exhibitions – Sundaram Tagore Gallery. At: http://www.sundaramtagore.com/exhibitions/karen-knorr (Accessed on 16/04/2020).