Mike Knowles

Mike was born in 1941 and trained first of all in Liverpool in the fifties, under such distinguished painters as Arthur Ballard, Charles Burton and Nicholas Horsfield (whose work I used to sell prior to his death at the age of 87). In 1984, he was appointed Head of the Department of Fine Art at Liverpool. In the sixties, Mike trained at the Slade School in London, under the leadership of Sir William Coldstream, and he trained there under such major British Contemporary painters as Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews and Euan Uglow. Together these artists set the highest standards, and exemplified the continuity of the great art of the past and contemporary practice. The influence of Frank Auerbach is particularly evident in Mike’s work, and like Auerbach, Mike generally, though not always, works in heavy impasto oil, and his work is sensitive and carefully planned.

There is no subject that has not at some time or in some place, attracted his interest. His is not a casual eye, as he penetrates beneath the surface of things, in search of their essential character. In these visually and emotionally powerful works of art, it is clear that Mike revels in the raw energy, the transience and unpredictability of Nature in all its moods. He sums up his work in the following way: “It seems to me that Nature should be our teacher, yet artists rarely use the word these days – cutting-edge scientists use it all the time to describe their engagement with the incredible complexity of the world around us. To some, my landscapes might be seen as less than representational, but I am trying to paint and engage with my observations and experience of my everyday surroundings. Primarily, I am fascinated by the rhythms, space and structures of the landscapes I walk through each day, the interrelationship of land and sky, the shifting weather, light, tone and colour. I want each painting to be complete in itself, its own little universe, as near to a microcosm as I can make it of the forces and structures of the world out there — as far as I can figure them out, each day bringing its surprises, little discoveries and realisations. I want the paint to have a life of its own. Drawing is the first step and the underpinning discipline, what Ingres called ‘the probity of art’.”

In 1991, Mike was appointed Professor Emeritus of Fine Art, Visiting Lecturer and Examiner to various Art Schools, including the Royal Academy and the Slade School, University College, London. He has most recently completed an important commission for The Hong Kong Advanced Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Studies.

Dave Gunning