Julije Knifer

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“My whole work process is actually a stream without oscillation, with the aim to achieve monotony, which is the simplest and most expressive rhythm.”

photo: Damir Fabijanić

Born in 1924 in Osijek (Yugoslavia), Julije Knifer is considered to be one of Croatia’s most prominent contemporary artists. He studied at Zagreb’s Academy of Fine Arts, from which he graduated in 1957, winning first prize. In the same year, he travelled to Paris, where he was influenced by the work of François Morellet. In the 1960s, he was one of the founders of the Gorgona Group, a group of intellectuals brought together by their rejection of dogmatism. Around the same time, he painted his first “meander”, a motif which would dominate all of his oeuvre.

The meander—which became one of the defining symbols of Zagreb’s famously avant-garde art scene—is an endlessly variable geometric form, a maze-like shape of horizontal and vertical switchbacks that is almost always rendered in black and white. It was the vehicle through which he explored time, rhythm and repetition. He worked with paint, collage and murals, making meanders in various sizes, including one on a 20 x 30 m canvas in a quarry in Tübingen (Germany). In 1994 he moved to Paris, where he lived until his death in 2004.

4/10 XI.-XII 88 K, 1988

acrylic on canvas, 70 x 60 cm
on loan from a private collection
photo: Zarko Vijatovic

His first “meander”, released around 1959–1960, represents an endeavour towards anti-image and the creation of a contemplative mood. As of 1971, he began making large-scale “meander murals”, and from 1976, he created increasingly larger drawings which sought primarily to document the power and intensity of the colour black. The technique and scale of his works underwent many changes over the decades, but he remained faithful to his meander motif up until his final days in Paris.