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Anatol Knotek's Fusion of Art and Poetry

Updated: Mar 20


 

Anatol Knotek, a Viennese artist who's work blends visual poetry and textual art, joins us to share his creative process, inspirations, and artistic evolution. Drawing on the mid-century concept of Concrete Poetry, Knotek's practice revitalizes the art with a contemporary vision. His work reveals hidden meanings locked within many of the everyday words and phrases we use today.

 




Your art seamlessly merges visual and textual elements. What inspired you to explore this intersection of visual poetry and art?


I enjoy language and love poetry! My aim is to intensify meaning and to show contradictions and emotions, while simultaneously creating a minimalist and visually appealing artwork. Discovering and engaging with concrete and visual poetry was a pivotal moment for me. This form of literature and art opened my eyes in a certain way, and I would describe it as the foundation of what I do as an artist today. 


Creating art with text is a unique challenge. Can you share your process for conceptualizing and executing these text-based pieces?


My creative process typically begins, perhaps unsurprisingly, with a vague idea or at least a sense of the direction I want my work to take. I usually collect these initial thoughts into notebooks before transferring the ideas to a computer using a graphics program. At this stage, the concepts start to take shape in various forms. This phase is crucial for simplifying and refining the ideas. 

If these concepts still resonate with me after days, weeks, or sometimes even years upon revisiting them, I proceed to their physical realization. I decide whether the piece will be a text installation, a text object, or a more traditional painting on canvas, and adapt the designs accordingly. The choice depends on whether the space is included as part of the work's meaning and which medium has the strongest impact. 


The choice of materials and also the texture of the surfaces plays a vital role and is inseparably linked to the content of the work. 


What are the major influences and inspirations behind your work, especially in visual poetry and word art?


As mentioned, concrete and visual poetry have been significant influences in my work. But while these disciplines continue to serve as a foundation, they no longer possess the same inspirational power for me as they did twenty years ago. Now, other forms of visual art play a major role. I feel like an explorer when I walk through galleries and museums, drawing inspiration from both older art and contemporary art movements. 


Additionally, experimenting with new tools and materials, both digital and physical has allowed me to express my ideas in novel ways and integrate them into my work. 


Humor also plays a role. Perhaps I have an experimental approach here too, trying to unravel the mysteries of humor, at least to some extent… 


What have been some of the most significant challenges you've faced in developing your distinctive style, and how have you overcome them?


Probably the biggest challenge is to follow one's ideas, perhaps even stubbornly for a while, without any apparent success. And this still isn't easy.

There's a quote, allegedly by Arnold Schoenberg, that beautifully says in German: ”Kunst kommt nicht vom Können, sondern von Müssen” which can be translated to, “art does not come from ability, but from necessity.” I think there's some truth to that. However, it should also be said that without a certain level of skill or ability, which one can develop, art can quickly lose its appeal. 


Since I don't have a formal artistic education and instead taught myself art techniques and methods, I naturally made mistakes and faced setbacks. However, I try to turn this circumstance into a virtue, and sometimes I managed to develop my own unique technique from a failure. After all, a mistake just means that something didn't turn out the way one originally imagined! 


How has your artistic approach evolved over time? Are there any particular phases or transformations your work has undergone?


Indeed, I've gone through several phases that began quite differently than one might expect. The first artist who truly inspired me was Van Gogh--this was during my teenage years when I started to engage more seriously with painting. I began by making copies, and later tried to imitate and interpret the styles of my heroes from the late 19th century. Around the turn of the millennium I started using text for the first time, which took the form of newspaper clippings arranged into collages. The text formed the shape but also had its own meaning.


Later, I began to create realistic portraits using only handwriting, however, when I discovered the concrete poets of the fifties and sixties (especially Ernst Jandl and Eugen Gomringer), these became my greatest inspiration and significantly contributed to shaping my current style.


Since then, I've been trying to incorporate the two-dimensional text into the three-dimensional space, but also focusing on material and surface, which are gaining more and more significance in my work. 



In your opinion, how do words enhance the visual impact of art, and how do you balance the two in your creations?


For me, both the words and the visual impact are equally important and ideally complement each other. However, this depends on the work itself. It's crucial for me to create something aesthetically pleasing, using as few words as possible, presented in the most aesthetic way possible, to evoke many associations in the viewer or reader. It's often a balancing act between conveying a meaning and allowing freedom of interpretation. 


How do you find audiences interact with or interpret your text-based art? Are there any responses that have particularly surprised or intrigued you?


I am most impressed when there are interpretations different from my own, when words or combinations of words are read or could be read, and when a work takes on personal meaning for the viewer. 


Looking ahead, are there any new directions or techniques in visual poetry that you're excited to explore?


I believe there is still a lot of potential in text-based art, especially with the incorporation of technology and the latest developments in AI. I originally completed a degree in computer science, which I began for the purpose of integrating computer art, animations, and technology into my work. After my studies, I pursued a different path and dedicated myself more to analog techniques, but it's possible that a phase may come when I aim to combine both again. For now, I'm leaving that to others. 



How have platforms like Instagram influenced your art, both in creation and in reaching your audience?


Social media has probably influenced me and my art more than I realize or might like to admit. My journey with social media dates back to the beginning of 2010, when I started a Tumblr page called visual-poetry.tumblr.com, and I continue to keep it going. 


My Instagram page, https://www.instagram.com/ anatolknotek, is a wonderful way to spread my work, try out things, get feedback, and also sell my work directly. 


What advice would you give to emerging artists interested in exploring visual poetry and textual art?


In German, the word "advice" is "ratschlag," and there's a saying: "Ratschläge sind auch Schläge.”  This translates to, "advice can also be a form of attack.” Perhaps for this reason, I'll avoid the question. ;)





 

Contact Anatol Knotek

For inquiries, collaborations, or to connect, you can reach out through the following channels: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anatolknotek

Visit Knotek's website here: https://www.anatolknotek.com




 

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