britt knudsen-owen

in the field of the other and screen
Soapbox Gallery
May and September/October 2000

In the field of the other, a video installation by Brit Knudsen-Owen, emanated from an atte povera sensibility. The 'other' of the title refers to a realm of art which is not lofty and ideological, but is gentle, deriving its humble elements from nature. In this 'other' realm it is movement, not stagnation, which is the defining property of matter. The movement I perceived in the installation was the saturation of the grounds of fibre by vegetable dyes, and the movement of these dyes through the absorbent rnatter. Knudsen-Owens installed her work in two roorns, a blue room which expanded into an orange room. In the blue room a video monitor was placed centrally on a blue cushion with a four-section screen playing blue images. Three blue paintings were installed on the wall behind; and a curtain of crocheted cotton wool , with the blue dye slowly being absorbed skywards, framed most of the passageway into the next room. The video had been shot in the city with a hand-held camera-the artist places herself visibly in the middle of the street to film-and the result partially resembled a security video. The coupling of images of the city with the 'reverie in blue' is part of Knudsen Owen's 'take' on art and its intrinsic connection to the everyday. The blue-indigo paintings were intense and saturated. Unstretched panels like bags, they yield a little, providing an echo of Knudsen-Owens's earlier installation Soak.

The orange room functioned as the inverse of the blue. I passed by the orange-rimmed crochet curtain, where the dye was again moving upwards, and proceeded to an orange monitor on the floor with its orange image. The orange dye moved slightly higher up the crocheted curtain than the blue, and there were seven orange squares installed here on the wall. In each case-the blue and the orange-the fabric had been exposed directly to the dye: this had occurred twice, and two layers of dye memory attested to the process. In addition, the artist had folded, clamped and stitched these works, giving them a certain three-dimensionality. The 'orange' video seemed to affect a slowing down of the body and an absorption of time-where time was being stretched out-with images such as a child swinging in a tyre and a Ferris wheel moving around. I was returned to my childhood. The feeling of the whole was liquid and temporal with a sense of insistence upon the rituals of making and a celebration of the everyday. Knudsen-Owens' subsequent installation in the front windows of Soapbox Gallery continued to delight in the same humble materials. Screens comprised three works in cotton wool and dye: coils of cotton wool were tinged with orange, blue and brownish hues; in the third window a red circle bled into a flat surface of cotton wool. Because of the scale and format of these works, they had a greater sense of abjectness than the previous installation, becoming almost jewel-like at night. Knudsen-Owen's sensibility is a breath of fresh air: as viewer I find myself enmeshed in her highly atmospheric installations in memorable ways. Such memories relate to childhood, dreaming, the passage of time, the psychological apprehension of timewhere it rushes by or hangs heavily-games with leaves and mud, and certain rituals of pleasure.