Reilly Knowles is a settler interdisciplinary artist living and working in so-called London, Ontario — on the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak, Anishinaabek, and Chonnonton Nations, lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796, as well as the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. He is a graduate of Western University’s Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts program with a Specialisation in Studio Arts and has been exhibiting since 2015, with solo shows at Forest City Gallery (London, ON), Queen Elizabeth Park Community & Cultural Centre (Oakville, ON) and Spencer Gallery (London, ON). He is a recipient of the Tony and Betsy Little Gold Medal in Visual Arts, the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild Memorial Prize, and the Forest City Gallery Exhibition Award, as well as a member of Good Sport Artist Collective and The Coves Collective.
I am at work forging attentive and reciprocal relationships with the ecosystem I inhabit. Connecting deeply with other-than-humans is an essential part of my life as well as my drive to create and share.
I gather debris washed from the rivers and forage plants from the forests. I then fashion textiles, drawings and paintings speaking of, and made from, my time learning from the creatures with whom I share my habitat. I am interested in the earth’s interwoven forces of growth and decay – the taking, the giving, the changing. The way these act upon the human body and its artistic creations.
My work is equally fascinated by marginal and monstrous figures of legend, particularly witches. Often depicted as being uniquely privy to nature’s whims, I use their alternative relationships with the natural world to challenge my limited understanding of the other-than-human. They are fissures in my perspective into which I can slip my figures and pry open the fraught concept of nature itself. Not in search of magic, but something just as good: a new way of seeing. Here I find outcasts living between the here and there, complicating rigid ideologies and embodying a resplendent and formidable queerness.
Where tradition places the queer body outside of nature, I seek to rehabilitate my body’s relationship with life’s ebb and flow. My art is a project in knowing both myself and the earth more deeply, and allowing myself to find again and again that we are each other.