Dominique Knowles, The Viscosity of Grief

Grief is viscous. It so often cannot be contained in a singular vessel, and when it is expressed in art, that singular grief belonging to an artist might bleed through the canvas, and, maybe gently, maybe violently, flow into the viewer. To consume art made as a product of grief can very often mean, even in the smallest of ways, to become a part of that grief. To participate in art made out of loss is to dampen oneself with that aqueous sadness, to gain, to lose, all at once.

Such is the case at Hannah Hoffman Gallery, where Dominique Knowles’ new exhibition, My Beloved, hangs until July 22nd. The collection of work is inspired by the death of his horse, with whom he shared what he describes as a “sacred” relationship. Knowles compares the painting of the horse to the brushing of one; the stroke of the bristles across broad canvases, the precise manipulation of paint as means through which the body is created— to create the horse on canvas, for Knowles, mimics the corporeal care of the real being.

That tactile intimacy between rider and horse, between artist and canvas, translates with a pious intensity within the gallery space. Structured canvases recall altarpieces; the windows of the installation, shaded in a somber brown, foreground that lugubrious temporality witnessed in church stained-glass-windows, while insisting on earthiness, on a primordial connection to mourning.

There is a passage in Eirinie Carson’s 2023 novel The Dead are Gods that articulates the wet nature of grief: 

“It is a tsunami, ready to plow through your life with impunity…Allow yourself to feel it, to stand in its dark waters, to feel the wet and cold seeping through your clothes. Because when it passes, (Which it will, it comes in waves, remember?) clarity will come in its place. A calmness, an acceptance. The ability to recall details…”

It seems evident that Knowles is weathering the storm. From those pools of hearty color emerge discernible silhouettes, muscular edges. Knowles crafts the suggestion of an equine form, emerging from a sopping pool of devotion. That somber skeleton of memory, emerging from a whirling background of longing– these recognizable figures of Knowles’ late companion indicate a burgeoning clarity, a painful capacity for recollection.

So, when Knowles’ grief cannot be contained in form or medium, the grief lingers heavy in the space. So go. Become embalmed by the grief, by the proximation of divinity. Celebrate with Knowles. Mourn with Knowles. Gain, lose, all at once.