Julije Knifer (born in 1924 in Osijek, Croatia ; died in 2004 in Paris)
Julije Knifer is today largely recognised as one of the most prominent Croatian painters of the 20th Century. One of the founding members of the 1960s Croatian avant-garde group Gorgona, his oeuvre is centralised over the exploration of a single form – the meander, which started in the late 1950s and later developed into the single central point of his artistic production.
The artist arrived at the meander whilst searching for the utter reduction of all expressive elements: "Within a few months I came, as it were, to the end, that is to a black and white painting (which I referred to as an anti-painting) – to a meander from which one simply cannot go any further“ (Artist quoted on www.msu.hr/en/20302) In art iconography, the winding meander of the river has been used since the earliest artistic production and is considered a synonym for the eternal flow of life; however, to Knifer the meander was a key to a world in which chronology had no meaning, and a way of creating works that were beyond their singular self, but part of a group of works that he continued to paint until the very last days of life.
Gorgona group, which Knifer co-founded, was international both in its core activities and in its ethos. Archives of the group reveal regular exchanges between Croatian artists associated with the group and their international contemporaries, including Lucio Fontana, Robert Rauschenberg and Piero Manzoni. Furthermore, François Morellet, Piero Dorazio and Victor Vasarely exhibited with Gorgona in the first exhibition of the New Tendencies movement in Zagreb in 1961.
Knifer articulated the meander conceptually in his early sketches before he formally started painting the motif, and his life-long dedication to this simple form - the study of absence, the reduction and complete perfection in execution - reveals an artist who found his meditative outlet in the process of painting. Much like On Kawara in his Date Paintings, Knifer used a singular theme in his work to record the timeless existence and repetition of the purest, simplest form, creating calmness and beauty that exudes from these works.
Knifer represented Croatia in the 2001 Venice Biennale, and in 2014 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb mounted a full retrospective of his work. He has exhibited at Centre Pompidou, Paris, MAMCO in Geneva and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and his works are in numerous private and public collections around the world, including the MOMA in New York, the Tate London, The Centre Pompidou in Paris and the National Gallery in Berlin.
L'artiste croate Julije Knifer étudia à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Zagreb de 1951 à 1957, sous la tutelle du professeur Duro Tiljak ; c'est là qu'il découvrit le passage de la figuration à la non-figuration, ainsi que les notions d'un « rien » et d'un « zéro » de la forme. Le Suprématisme russe, et surtout l'oeuvre de Kazimir Malevitch, eurent une très grande influence sur son travail à ses débuts. D'abord membre du groupe d'avant-garde Gorgona, il décida par la suite de se concentrer sur le méandre, une forme géométrique semblable à un labyrinthe et presque toujours réalisée en noir et blanc, qui apparut pour la première fois dans son travail en 1960 et devint presque l'unique motif de son œuvre. Le méandre est pour lui une figure dont les modulations semblent restituer le rythme d'une durée intérieure. Son œuvre inclut des peintures, des dessins (crayon et graphite sur papier) et des sculptures.