Zagreb

Julije Knifer

more than a year ago

Croatian artist Julije Knifer (1924-2004) spent the best part of 45 years painting endless variations on the theme of the meander, a snaking abstract form almost always rendered in stark black and white.

The Osijek-born, Zagreb-educated artist became obsessed with the meander motif in his late thirties and spent the rest of his life exploring its possibilities, as if on a quest to discover a form that would express everything that he wanted to say about painting, life, the universe and everything. As Knifer himself explained (in one of the many artist’s statements scattered throughout the exhibition),  “in the space of a few months I arrived at what you might call the end… at the meander, a point beyond which you quite simply cannot go.” 

Ana Knifer, the artist’s daughter, recently recalled in print that when she asked her father what the meander meant, he answered simply ‘it is life’. In many ways he was seeking to channel the same energies as Russian suprematist Kazimir Malevich, who famously unleashed his epoch-defining Black Square on the St Petersburg public in 1915.

Knifer’s meander became one of the defining symbols of Zagreb’s famously avant-garde art scene from the Sixties onwards. He was always somewhere near the heart of the action, co-founding the Gorgona anti-art group in 1959, and exhibiting in the ground-breaking series of New Tendencies exhibitions that, from the early Sixties onwards, turned the Croatian capital into a centre for constructivist art, op-art, and computer art.

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