At the very moment that Israel and Palestine once again make solemn noises about final status negotiations, Tel Aviv-based artist Know Hope opens an examination of the artificial divisions that shape the human condition at Lazarides.
The work is not principally about strife in the artist’s homeland, nor would be productive to read it as such. Know Hope’s concerns are further reaching, resonating as they do with an existential crux of loneliness and abandonment in a global community. He is interested in the things that divide us: both physically, such as borders, flags, nations, cultures, fences and walls; and in our fears, anxieties, and aspirations – divisions that deny us a peaceful co-existence.
The concept of Know Hope’s London exhibition is upheld by its materials; its meaning is elucidated in pieces of old doors, window frames and shutters – embodying the idea of division – but remade into a wall-hanging sculpture, giving a sense of positivity for the future, of attainable unity from splintered frontiers. Wood is a primary material here, and because of the way it carries history on its surface and in its fibres, there is a story of humanity contained in these pieces: the ravages of the weather and the marks of human contact, a glimpse into the lives of the people who used these materials before, to a different end.
Know Hope,The Abstract , 2013, 174 cm x 120 cm , Mixed media on wood; Courtesy of the Artist and Lazarides Rathbone Place.
Drawn on offcuts of wood and scraps of old paper, Know Hope’s signature character, whose journey can be traced through the last nine years of work, is liberated from the frame or canvas; expressed in the sense of motion we get as the character appears recurrently, darting from one work to another, completing a kind of voyage around the exhibition. By traversing the imposed gulf that separates the works in space, his protagonist expresses the artist’s ultimate wish for humanity. The images themselves explore memory through old photographs, while maps enforce the idea of the border as separation. Pictures of ramshackle homes in arid landscapes, with laundry drying on the line outside, speak of family and community, but with their absence of people, express a certain emptiness
Know Hope has erected a brick wall that bisects the gallery space, which, although a predictable gesture, works to darken the tone of the show with its murky surface and obstruction of light, and continues the artist’s thesis on divisions.
Know Hope, the Very Real (detail), 71.5 cm x 55 cm , Mixed media on wood; Courtesy of the Artist and Lazarides Rathbone Place.
Behind the wall is a collection of single bricks, hung on the wall in pristine glass-fronted display cases. The brick wall itself brilliantly merges with an existing brick column in the space, a kind of trompe d’oeil effect. It is this subtlety that gives the piece its resonance as a manmade division, that looks as if it was always there and, more importantly, as if it should be there. Furthermore, this wall creates another room in the gallery, which houses a series of works that, in their minimalism and elegant finish, stand in such contrast, both materially and emotionally, to the rest of the works in the show. This work, at the very back of the gallery, initiates a last minute change of pace – the mood is suddenly more sombre and focused. It galvanises the entire show and reminds you that, for all his quotidian charm, Know Hope is an artist with a serious concern for the collective human condition.
(Image on top: Know Hope, Upwards | Downwards, 2013, Mixed media on wood and paper , 45 cm x 51 cm; Courtesy of the Artist and Lazarides Rathbone Place.)