While developing her work for the small group show, Start with a Line, in 2022, Pugwash artist Archan Knotz realized she had always denied that she had strong emotions. She had learned at a young age to bury her feelings to fit in. The message in her family was that if she was emotional there was something wrong with her. After the death of her son, she needed to find a way to relieve the built up energy and let the grief out. Art was the way to take the lid off this boiling pot. Inspired by German expressionist Kaethe Kollwitz, she used self-portraiture. She didn’t need positive feedback from anyone. She just listened to herself. She worked big, attacking the surface. The resulting images were not contained, not safe. They were darker, but viewers could not help but be engaged with this visceral and powerful outpouring. “They are hammer blows against the bitterness of the heart.” – Kaethe Kollwitz
Now she needs a quieter space to live and work. She taps into her inner stillness. She gives herself the freedom to let go when she needs to. She realizes that she can’t control everything and she is fine with that. Her early figurative work had been focussed on details. Now she strives to simplify, not to replicate the subject matter but to represent the feeling evoked by the image. She is fascinated with the underrepresented, the sick or the deceased.
Archan’s approach to a series of paintings or drawings is often political, metaphorical. For example in her last group show Ripple Effect, she used images of shoes to represent status symbols. She is not a colourist. If she uses colour, it is very minimal, restrained. Her strength is in the drawing.
Documenting her process has always been part of Archan’s art practice. She laughingly calls her latest hand-crafted journal her ‘Funeral Journal’, one she would feel comfortable sharing with others when she was no longer in the picture. It is focussed on what happens during her art making and does not include personal commentary on her life, unless it impacts on the art work. It helps her understand herself through the process of analyzing what is important.
In five years time she would hope that selling her work was not the driving force or reason to be creating. She would wish to be at peace.
Her influences include artists Alice Neel, Diane Arbus, Frida Kahlo, Louise Fletcher and her fellow creatives of the Pugwash Artist Collective.