Growing up in a rural town transforming itself into a city, I’ve always taken notice of the the growth and decay of landscapes, and how these changes influence me on physical and spiritual levels. At different times, I’ve believed my body was too wild, like unbroken earth requiring cultivation, or that it was far beyond nature’s blessing, toxic and sterile. I feel kinship with the oaks that disappear beneath the parkways, and the flowers that grow in the scars in the asphalt. They grow and die according to others’ plans, but also often in spite of them. The landscape teaches me about the life outside my door, as well as the life inside my skin. Art is the way I communicate these lessons.
My practice considers my body’s relationship with nature using a language of mythology, folklore and religious icons. Drawing particularly from medieval Irish art, I paint, draw and stitch fantastic terrains inhabited by sympathetic monstrosities. These characters live in the tricky in-between space between life and death, male and female, and human and inhuman – the liminal, creative gap between dualities. Through these dissident bodies, I seek to trouble the tidy divisions between natural and unnatural, drawing connections between the beauty and terror of natural forces and that of queer and female bodies. Like the flora and fauna subjected to urbanization in my childhood neighbourhood, my work navigates the tension between wildness and imposed domestication.
Reilly Knowles is an undergraduate student at Western University in London, Ontario pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Studio Specialization and a minor in Women’s Studies. Knowles is a recipient of the 2019 Gray Creative Arts Award in Visual Arts, the 2018 Mackie Cryderman Award for Excellence in Visual Arts, and the 2017 Tony and Betsy Little Scholarship in Visual Arts. He also placed second in the Young Artist Division at the McMichael Canadian Collection En Plein Air Painting Competition of 2018. Knowles has exhibited at The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinberg, ON), Holcim Gallery (Milton, ON), TAP Centre for Creativity (London, ON), Artlab Gallery (London, ON) and FASM at the Mall Gallery (Milton, ON), among many other venues.