MIRIAM KNIBBELER: SCULPTURES
Miriam Knibbeler’s sculptures are made of wire, heating pipe, polystyrene foam, wax, textile and pigment. Sometimes they fit in the palm of the hand. Sometimes they are so big that they take up the entire floor of the studio. The sculptures are recognizable as people or animals. Above all, they are bodies; ‘Presences’ that take their place in the space. Their skins are made of wax, fleshly, as tender as the skin of newborns, cold and congealed like the skin of the dead. The fact that they can melt and deform, makes them fragile and transient. The transparency of the material makes them rarefied: present and absent at the same time. There is always something that alienates – but subtle, almost unnoticed. For example, a bird can look like an embryo, a life-size horse a humanlike and defenseless being. A ‘watchman’ seems to have transcended time; a ‘traveler’ seems as much a part of heaven as of the earth.
In her work, Miriam Knibbeler explores the space between soullessness and inspiration, banality and mystery. In the tangibility of her work, she tries to touch the imaginary. In this way she questions the mystery of life and death.
Initially Knibbeler worked mainly two dimensional in painting and drawing. With creating three dimensional work, she made the step from representation to ‘presence’. This gave her the opportunity to relate physically to the work and also gave the viewer the opportunity to connect to the work more directly. A high degree of mimesis is important to her. At the same time she plays with material, size and proportions. In the beginning she worked as realistically as possible. Gradually a more poetic language developed, in which she sought openness in meaning and allowed wonder. In her latest work she deepens her research into material and transparency. She allows the materials of the work to be more autonomous, and does a greater appeal to the viewer’s imagination. She remains true to the lifelike form, but where the emphasis was first on the imitation, she now leaves parts of the image uncovered, so that the ‘skeleton’ remains visible. In this way she makes you experience the transformation from matter to form to an inspired presence. Conversely, the decay from animate form to pure matter is also evident.
As far as their formal language is concerned, the sculptures can be placed in the classical tradition, but the substantive approach to form and material makes them contemporary works of art. In other words: with her roots in tradition, the artist searches for meaning in a contemporary way. Her images arise from what she experiences in her life. She is just as inspired by people and animals in her environment as by music, literature, film, mythology or philosophy; by a winged horse on a Parisian bridge as by animals in formaldehyde in a university museum. All these impressions end up in the work without being too literal. The materials are contemporary and are reminiscent of those of Berlinde de Bruyckere and Folkert de Jong, but the form and expressiveness of the work are entirely unique. For Miriam Knibbeler it is not a goal in itself to create ‘innovative art’. She constantly asks the essential question and tries to find the form that suits it. The themes of her work are timeless – actuality lies in the direct, physical confrontation with the sculptures, and the relevance of their meaning for the viewer, here and now.
Janet Meester, mei 2016
Translated from Dutch