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Robert Knocke

Born in Hanover, Germany
Lives and works in Hanover, Germany and New York City, USA

Robert Knoke gained worldwide recognition over the past ten years for his large-scale drawings of personalities shaping contemporary culture. He explores the genre of portraiture and its role in an era dominated by photography, redefining the genre for the 21st century.

Knoke has obsessively developed an impressive body of work with a unique and vigorous signature style. His depiction of the human face and figure, neither illustrative nor defined by context, is delicate, sophisticated and elegant, and at times even dark, brutal and disturbing. Insistently working in solitude, he creates a self-imposed distance from his subjects working off of photographs he takes during first-time meetings with his subjects. In these informal settings, he carefully directs posture and facial expression with impulse, and moments later documents with a rawness that is comparable to mug shots. Knoke refrains from capturing an emotional facet of his subjects. Instead, he seeks to capture the raw and individualistic aspect that he initially and instinctually is drawn to. In the physical drawings, the figure stays planted within a space that disregards spatial or temporal boundaries. Abstractions are at times applied with fingerprints, paint smudges, monochrome forms or gestural lines, further shaping the figure and holding it in place. Although one would think that portraiture is the main theme of Knoke’s work, he is more concerned about the actual drawing than the life-like outcome of his subjects. For him, portraiture is just a point of departure, a vehicle to be able to explore the media itself. Still, Knoke curates his selection of subjects based on his own interests in culture, resulting in a personal embodiment of himself. People that have sat for Robert Knoke include Iris Apfel, Fabien Baron, Bret Easton Ellis, Nicola Formichetti, Gilbert & George, Gossip, Debbie Harry, Roni Horn, Marc Jacobs, The Kills, Terence Koh, Rick Owens, Andrée Putman, Patti Smith, Casey Spooner, Michael Stipe, Liza Thorn, Lawrence Weiner and Olivier Zahm, to name a few.


“I like the moment when the act of drawing exuberates raw energy, it’s also about speed that I try to capture by moving my blackened fingers very fast over the paper. It is like hitting the keyboard of a piano very hard and fast, where each touch leaves a fingerprint.”

Kooku selection of designer works

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