AGO to host first-ever Toronto exhibition by contemporary German painter Silke Otto-Knapp

Exhibition of 29 paintings to include portraits of pioneering female artists Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Carr and Florine Stettheimer, as well as landscapes, seascapes and scenes of avant-garde set designs

TORONTO — The emotive and unconventional watercolours of Los Angeles–based, German-born painter Silke Otto-Knapp (b. 1970) come to Toronto this spring with Land lies in water, an exhibition of 29 paintings. Renowned for her complex and delicate landscapes, Otto-Knapp has never had a major solo show in Toronto until now. Opening at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Feb.14, 2015, Land lies in water explores the diversity of Otto-Knapp’s current subject matter, featuring works that portray pioneering women artists, modern dancers, interiors, landscapes, seascapes and avant-garde stage designs.

Working mostly in shades of black, grey and silver, Otto-Knapp’s largely monochrome works are studies in the use of light and translucency. Unlike traditional watercolourists, Otto-Knapp paints on canvas and linen, which allows her to repeatedly wash away layers of paint and rebuild them, lending her delicate images a distinctive flatness and luminosity. Every image is carefully choreographed, and Otto-Knapp’s subjects range from barren ocean seascapes to sharply defined silhouettes of modern dancers.

Land lies in water includes a number of portraits of creative women alongside the environments and atmospheres they inhabited. White lilac (2009) is a ghostly full-figure portrait of the artist Florine Stettheimer; Portrait (E.B.) (2012) portrays the poet Elisabeth Bishop in repose; and Stage (moonlit) (2011) depicts the choreographer Anna Halprin’s outdoor stage in Marin, Calif. Focusing on frequently overlooked artists who have made significant contributions to contemporary culture, Otto-Knapp's paintings bring these figures to the fore, even as her use of thin washes of paint paradoxically leaves them in the realm of the barely visible.

Curated by Kitty Scott, the AGO’s curator of contemporary and modern art, the exhibition takes its title from a poem by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. “Bishop’s phrase strikes to the heart of Otto-Knapp’s preoccupations,” says Scott. “Understood as a stage direction, Land lies in water reads as choreography. Whereas when taken as a geographical fact, it brings into focus her paintings of landscapes, seascapes and stage sets. We are very pleased to welcome Silke and her work to Toronto.”

In addition, Scott has arranged for three of Otto-Knapp’s paintings, including Sailboat with Moon (2012), to go on display inside the AGO’s Thomson Collection of Ship Models. The spare simplicity of these canvases stands out boldly in relation to the painstakingly detailed models displayed in the space.

Otto-Knapp will give a free public talk at the AGO on March 18, 2015, in Jackman Hall at 5:30 p.m. This will be followed by a free public reception from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Walker Court to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Performing at the opening reception will be artist Ei Arakawa’s collaboration with New York based Hawaiian dance team Hālau Hula O Na Mele ‘Āina O Hawai’i (led by the native Hawaiian Luana Haraguchi). They will perform traditional hula (Kahiko) in Walker Court beginning at 7 p.m., telling stories of the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, Pele. Otto-Knapp and Arakawa are frequent collaborators.

The exhibition is included with the price of general admission and is free to AGO members. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at

Born in Osnabrück, Germany, Otto-Knapp holds a degree in cultural studies from the University of Hildesheim and a master of arts from Chelsea College of Art and Design, London. Recent solo exhibitions of Otto-Knapp’s work include Monday or Tuesday, Camden Arts Centre, London (2014); Questions of Travel, Kunsthalle Vienna and Fogo Island Arts (2014); Cold Climate, Museum Marino Marini, Florence (2014); A light in the moon, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2011); Many many women, Kunstverein München, Munich (2010); as well as exhibitions at Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff (2009); and Tate Britain, London (2005).

Land lies on water is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program, Aimia, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program; and the RBC Emerging Artists Project, Signature Partner of AGO Artist Projects.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

Feb. 7 – May 10, 2015: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time

April 11 – June 12, 2015: From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia

June 20 – Sept. 20, 2015: Landscape Painting in the Americas

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For hi-res images and other press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 403, [email protected]

Caitlin Coull; Manager, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 364, [email protected]


Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.