In Never-Never Kris Knight continues his exploration of ambiguity and intimacy in portraiture, presenting a darkly fantastical new series of oil paintings that are as dreamy as they are dense. Knight’s new character paintings of secretive men are quietly static in their positioning and oddly calming in their atmosphere. Gentle, almost delicate portraits of young men are a parade of performers that Knight continuously inhabits in metaphor; physical manifestations of the full array of the artist’s internal psychological tones and personal narratives. Shadowed and veiled faces often do not directly address the viewer; rather Knight’s characters are contradictions – quiet in repose yet flush with restlessness – they creep with a desire to gaze, a longing to be seen, and a need to disappear. Somber, yet playful – Knight’s paintings of isolated young men are charged with sexual tension, completely self-aware, but fiercely guarded nonetheless.
The paintings comprising Never-Never explore themes of anxiety, tedium, performance, fashion and aging – centering much of the work around the notion of Peter Pan Syndrome. Knight fuses these contemporary perceptions with a painting technique that draws both technical and contextual elements from historical French art movements, mixing layers of chalky muted pastel from Rococo (especially Antoine Watteau’s theatrical Fête Galante) with touches of Impressionism and visible underdrawing. He invokes sexually subversive painters like Konstantin Somov and Patrick Prockter, drawing from antiquity but creating a sensitive body of work that is at one glance romantic as it is queer.