Catch Wind and Water – in Ottawa


Above: Katherine Knight’s photograph, La Poleon 1 

There is something about the wind and water that stir the soul…. If you’re in Ottawa anytime from now until Sunday, March 14, drop in on Wind and Water, a major exhibition of York visual arts Professor Katherine Knight. The exhibition, which opened Jan. 16, is at the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Right: Katherine Knight

“Gathering works from across a breadth of time offers a remarkable opportunity to review,” said Knight about her exhibition. “I was content to see aesthetic and conceptual consistencies alongside an evolving creative confidence. It feels good! Curator Cheryl Sourkes clarified links between my wind- and water-related images. It was great to see my 2002 image Tent from Pangnirtung next to a 1979 image photographed in Labrador. These juxtapositions reinforce my commitment to my current project imaging in Atlantic and Arctic Canada.”

Cheryl Sourkes, guest curator of the exhibition, has written the following piece about Wind and Water.

The exhibition Wind and Water gathers together selected photographic and video works produced by Katherine Knight over a period of 25 years. Natural elements figure importantly in this oeuvre – most particularly the primary elements of air and water. Knight combines concept with improvisational gesture and produces images as metaphoric as they are documentary.

Right: Airship, from Knight’s series, Aerostat  

Feelings of belonging and structures of self are profoundly connected to narratives of place. One internalizes geographical elements and consequently is shaped by them.

The landscape genre of Western art is often associated with paintings of grand, panoramic, idealized scenes. This particular expression of the genre, however, is the product of a world view shaped by and bound up with the rising capitalist class of 18th- and 19th-century Europe. There is a secondary landscape tradition as well that precedes and continues through this period, one that encompasses space in intimate ways, giving voice to specific forms and particular vantages. Katherine Knight’s photographs and videos participate in this more anti-heroic, proto-feminist lineage.

Right: Knight’s boat

Winds are famously elusive. Although they cannot be observed directly they are known through their effects. Knight places her subjects in the orbit of winds and records their responses. The winds she harnesses blow through regions of Canada where Knight has lived, in fields and by bodies of water in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia. While rivers and waterways are sites of commerce and sport, they can also stand in for travel or change or for life’s journey.

Knight’s work is characterized by counterpoised polarities. Her images align inner and outer considerations. They present natural conditions and cultural impositions, proximate activity and distant prospect, concrete place and transcendent space, equilibrium alongside day to day precariousness. Knight’s vision strikes a balance between a persevering life force – at times represented by a young girl – and the threat of death read through the ineluctable power of natural forces. These photos and videos touch the terror and exhilaration of childhood and hint at final things.

More about Katherine Knight

Born in Ottawa, Katherine Knight is a Toronto-based artist known for her landscape photography and photographic installations. She is currently professor in the Department of Visual Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University. She was the recipient of the Canada Council’s Duke and Duchess of York Award in Photography in 2000. For more information about Knight, visit her personal Web site or her York Web site, or read about her in the Aug. 8, 2003 YFile.