Julije Knifer’s first important exhibition in the United States took place only in 2014, where it met with a lot of interest. In Europe however, and especially in France - he lived in Paris for a while, where he died in 2004 – experts in the field have long regarded him as a pioneer in the development of western conceptual art. Knifer was a member of the avant-garde group Gorgona, based in Zagreb, who engaged with neo-Dada tendencies, taking an explicitly intellectual approach and basing their works on a new, ephemerous notion of art.
Julije Knifers artistic conception developed in the mid - 1950ies from the academically oriented Postkubism to abstract geometric painting. His teacher Duro Tiljak studied from 1919 – 1923 in Moscow with Kandinsky and Malevich and exerted strong formative influence on Knifer. He contributed significantly to Knifers preoccupation with Suprematism. In his search for a kind of anti-painting, Knifer eschewed the use of colour, creating what he considered the strongest visual contrasts with black and white. Like his own form of yin and yang, his variations of meander, which basically make up his oeuvre, submit to a superordinate harmony. Following his role model in the field of Musik, Igor Stravisnky, Knifer wished to provoke through the technique of repetition an “escalation of uniformity and monotony.” Not unlike On Kawara, in this way he documented the passing of time, and at the same time the absurdity of this endeavour. Since antiquity, the meander has been a symbol for eternity and the eternally self-renewing energy of the universe. This principle goes hand in hand with Knifer’s lack of interest in a quantitative of qualitative development of his oeuvre, which meant that he frequently and enthusiastically returned to older works and revised them.
„I wanted to achieve rhythm and extreme contrasts. The simplest and the most expressive rhythm is monotony. Monotony is a flow and rhythm at once. From my work process a monotonous rhythm has emerged. Continuity matters, but chronology does not.”1
„The continuity lasts from one image to the next. The continuity is maintained, but the order does not matter. Time and the environment change the human, and only from this aspect my paintings change. Time is of no importance to me, it does not matter when I made a painting. The chronology and sequence of my paintings has no meaning. Maybe I already painted my last and the first are yet to be done.“2
Julije Knifer (Osijek 1924-2004 Paris) lived in Italy, Germany, and finally France. He was a co-founder of the avant-garde group Gorgona. Selected solo shows: Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York (2014), Galerie Arndt, Berlin (2011), Galerie Frank Elbaz (2010, 2002, 1999) , Galerie Gisele Linder, Basel (2004), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2001), Venice Biennale (2001), MAMCO, Geneva(2000, 1998, 1997, 1996), MUMOK, Vienna (2000).