Stephen Knapp’s Lightpaintings are a new art form, a new beginning and the next step in the evolution of painting. Dispensing with traditional media and narrative content he is one of a small group of artists who work with light. Formed at the intersection of paintings, sculpture and architecture, his lightpaintings are intangible, multi-dimensional compositions of pure radiance making visible the light that surrounds us and transforming it into something physical yet inherently transcendental.
In his lightpaintings Stephen Knapp creates destinations, a sense of place. Behind the lush colors and striking compositions underlies a serious exploration of space and dimension, light and color and perception that will forever change how we look at objects.
Lightpaintings are created by using a special glass treated with layers of metallic coatings that act as a selective prism to separate focused light into different wavelengths of the spectrum. Knapp cuts, shapes and polishes the glass in his studio to make a palette that he can use to refract and reflect light onto a surface and the surrounding space.
Tailored to their immediate setting, Knapp’s lightpaintings embody an inherently unique and wholly original form of art that integrates sculptural, structural and purely visual elements into compositions that transform their environment and envelop the viewer in iridescent radiance. The resulting creation displays abstract art’s affinity with music; the relationship of form, space and color akin to those of melody, time signature and harmony. Lightpaintings are in fact symphonies of color.
Lightpaintings have been called “light sculpture”, “new media”, “kinetic” and much more as viewers try to describe this new medium:
From Susan Stoops, Contemporary Curator
“The strength in Stephen Knapp’s work resides, in part, in how it defies description and amplifies experience. Although it incorporates color, light and space – elements common to painting, sculpture, and architectural installation – the work can never be defined simply by one or another of these practices. Similarly, to identify it too closely with the material of glass is also inadequate. Rather, it is a uniquely hybrid form, which is truly more than the sum of its parts. For all the precision underlying Knapp’s complex configurations, the resulting phenomena inspire a sense of wonder that borders on magic.”
From Sandy Harthorn, curator, Boise Art Museum:
“Deriving inspiration from his studies of light, color, dimension, space and perception, artist Stephen Knapp has been creating art that interacts with and is transformed by light for over thirty years…., all leading up to his more recent focus on lightpaintings, a word Knapp coined to describe his light-based installations. Ingeniously crafted with light, treated glass and stainless steel mounts, lightpaintings exist at the intersection of abstract painting, sculpture and technology.”
From Vince Carducci, cultural critic and social researcher and dean of undergraduate studies at College of Creative Studies, Detroit:
“The lightpaintings can and should be situated within the lineage of recent art. The optical tour-de-force of much of the work establishes its affinity with the eye-bending paintings of Op Artists such as Bridget Riley and Victor Vassarely. And yet the more serene passages, in which translucent color washes over veils of other translucent color, evoke the lyrical abstractions of less-hyperactive modernist masters such as Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. Perhaps the most appropriate forebears are the examples of Zen-like perceptual presence achieved by California Light and Space artists such as Robert Irwin, James Turrell, and Eric Orr. But Knapp can be distinguished from all of these artists in his use of light purely in and of itself, not as a collateral effect of pigment or architectural structure.”
“The work is constructed from elements Knapp has devised over a period of years. Layers of metallic coating are applied to glass pieces to either refract or reflect color (and sometimes do both simultaneously) to produce effects of the saturation of hues, tonal mixing, and other components of the artist's palette. The result displays abstract art's affinity with music; the relationships of form, space, and color are akin to those of melody, time signature, and harmony. The lightpaintings are in fact symphonies of color. The entire process is quintessentially modern in that the artist developed these techniques totally outside the conventions of traditional artistic production.”
“In a literal and metaphorical sense, the lightpaintings explore elemental relationships. This finds expression on a social and political level in that the work is thus utopian in the best tradition of the avant-garde, which takes new art forms and methods as critical in fostering new ways of thinking, of helping to shed light on heretofore unrealized possibilities.”
Discussing “Temporal Meditations” at the Flint Institute of Arts, Carducci said:
“That the complexity of colors and forms, as intricate as the densest Jackson Pollock drip painting, is created by using only two halogen lamps mounted at the top whose light is reflected and refracted by the arrangement of glass and metal below is all the more stunning for its simple yet elegant virtuosity”
From Christopher Schnoor, writer and critic:
“Knapp’s lightpaintings are reminiscent of Kandinsky’s Improvisation and Composition series of abstract canvases full of dynamic graphic forms, volatile colors and pictorial exclamations. In both Knapp and Kandinsky we find a striving to achieve a synthesis of thought and feeling, science and art, logic and intuition.”
“Knapp’s installations and multi-piece exhibits truly are environments which enclose and enrapture us. Not only are the walls and light around us in the Sculpture Court transformed but beneath our feet the floor is illuminated by its residual glow and reflections. Social Commentary, with its movement from the monochromatic to pure, high-key colors and back again, is yet another example of mankind’s endless efforts to explain the transcendental. It is a work that demands repeated visits, as the more time one spends with it, the more possibilities it reveals.”
In discussing Stephen Knapp’s lightpaintings on panels, Schnoor says:
“Redaction and its negative power is another crucial element here. Black is, of course, the absence of color, which in Knapp’s work serves as a device for bringing order and discipline to the potentially chaotic. Where Knapp is particularly adept at the use of black is in his smaller scale, individual works. In these explosive yet less expansive pieces his ground is a rectangular, laminated panel on which his palette attains an almost pulsating richness.
The artist’s skill at redactive shadow play is demonstrated by the black ‘frames’ he creates around the core of these compositions. In reality, they are deep shadow, precise rectilinear dark zones cast by the edges of the panel support. They do not so much contain the explosive image (which extends beyond the frame anyway) as enhance its chromatic intensity and draw us into the central mechanism of each.”