A touch of nostalgia inspired Michael Knight’s latest exhibition Windsong. After years in suburban Melbourne, Knight itched to paint the sparse landscape, dazzling sea and turbulent wind he saw on brief trips home to Western Australia.
Since moving back to Fremantle in 2014, Knight has taken the opportunity to get out of his studio to station country north of Southern Cross, to the beautiful beaches in the South West, and of course around the port town itself to reconnect with the views and moods of the west coast. His Windsong landscapes, exhibited at Nyisztor Studio from 25 March to 9 April, are ordinary scenes shaped by the elements and emotion of the day.
One element most places in Western Australia have in common is the wind. Knight says, “The wind bends and twists the landscape, and it’s the forms that I see that I have focused on in this body of work. For example, the painting Wattleup. The subject is part of Wattleup, an old southern suburb within the city of Cockburn, which has recently been cleared of housing for a future industrial area. What’s left is a windswept bare landscape dotted with palm trees, buffeted by the sea breeze. For me it’s one of the most powerful pieces in the show because it describes the transient nature of human civilisation, where the buildings come and go but the wind remains, blowing across a desolate land.”
Wind also creates unique and sometimes beautiful sounds… but how do you paint a sound? Can you paint the essence or the feeling of that sound? These are some of the questions Knight has been trying to answer in his work.
“When I painted Rocky Point I was struck by the form of a bent melaleuca twisted by the strong winds on the coast. It was a summer’s day with a soft breeze and I sat under a tree and listened to the break of the surf and the sound of the leaves rustling.
As I’ve developed as an artist I’ve wanted to explore emotions within a recognisable framework and I find landscapes a really good way to do that. As you paint outdoors all your senses, not just sight, are engaged and that translates into the painting. So in one of my paintings you get my experience of the day with the actual landscape we all share.”
Windsong is Knight’s 11th solo exhibition and his first Perth show since 2007. After 10 years working in Sydney and Melbourne, Knight is happy to be back on the west coast. He works from a purpose-built home studio which is open to the public for Artwalk Freo.