Video Václav Vojta
Jan Knap (1949) is an exotic phenomenon among contemporary artists. His paintings, created to the very last detail using the techniques of the Old Masters, work with classical compositions while depicting a subject of central importance to their creator. That subject is the childhood of Jesus, but you would be mistaken if you thought Knap's idyllic scenes from gardens and interiors full of angelic song and violins were an attempt at hyperbole. Knap's idyll is not just a never-ending harmony. As we watch the Holy Household, where the Virgin is ironing, angels help out, and children are playing, we are forced to ask: What is Joseph doing there, outside the window? The calm is only seeming, the drama of salvation latently present. The multilayered nature of Knap's paintings, the symbols that live their own life, the radiant colors – all of it reminds us of the Pre-Raphaelites' notion that of the death of painting as represented by Raphael, and that it was necessary to return to the period before his emergence, i.e., the 15th century, when artists were still interested in faith and not artistry.
Jan Knap joined with another Czech émigré artist, Milan Kunc, and their classmate Peter Angermann from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, to found Normal, an art group that, a little like the Pre-Raphaelites, wanted to return to normal painting. In Düsseldorf, a town saturated with the conceptual art of Joseph Beuys, this was a radical act that did not remain unnoticed by the art world. Although Normal no longer exhibits, Knap continues in the same vein and has continued from on a path from the group's hyperbole towards the truth, for true idyll is to be found in truth and not in dreaming about it.
The success of Knap's paintings, which can be found in many Czech and foreign collections, is evidence of the cogency of this unusual journey within contemporary art. As a result, however, the public has not had many chances to get to know his work. The exhibition at Klenová Castle is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of Knap's work to date.
Photos Jiří Strašek