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Playing with Material

NISHA, 2010
By: Orna Getenyo Shneid, Photography: Avraham Hai

Identity card: Name: Sara Knoll
Place of residence: Ramat Hasharon
Education: Autodidact
Occupation: Artist
Motto: "The ideas come from the world around you"

She is an autodidact who paints and sculpts using diverse materials, drawing themes for her artwork from her personal life and everyday experiences. She often creates sculptures without planning them in advance, and allows the material to affect the outcome. A conversation with Sara Knoll. 

When you enter Sara Knoll's home, you can understand the source of the inspiration for her artwork. Knoll, an artist who paints and sculpts, lives in a beautiful house on the outskirts of Ramat Hasharon. Her garden looks out at a true Tuscan landscape and, if not for the antennas installed at a nearby army base, one could easily be confused about the geographical location. The house is designed and decorated with her sculptures and paintings, which impart a sense of warmth and an aesthetic experience to guests, and naturally to its occupants as well. Knoll, an autodidact by training, has been engaged in art for 35 years. "I began with ceramics and from there moved on to sculpting materials," she recounts. "I currently sculpt in bronze, iron, polyester and plaster, and also paint." Her painting studio is situated in her house, whereas she creates her sculptures at a foundry. "Although I've never taken any formal courses, I've studied over the years in various frameworks, with artists such as Miriam Huri and at group workshops with other artists. I love to explore different materials and need to experiment all the time." 

Knoll claims that the inspiration for her works comes from within. "My emotions and everyday experiences are articulated in the choice of the subjects of her sculptures. When I began sculpting, I was a young mother. I chose the subject of motherhood and femininity and sculpted figures of women carrying babies. When I was busy remodeling my house and needed a lot of muscle, I began sculpting oxen. For an entire year I sculpted oxen that looked like women, with broad hips and feminine gestures. When the renovation was over, I realized that the time had come to return to femininity and softness. And then another period began, lasting about a year, during which I sculpted elegant pleated dresses. The combination between the strength of the oxen and the softness of the dresses led to the creation of additional images which appeared in other sculptures and paintings." 

Knoll's style is abstract, but a few years ago she noticed that tree trunks and flowers with unusual stalks appeared in her paintings. These same motifs also permeated her sculptures, and the human figures turned into abstract ones that looked as if they had come from other worlds, possibly aliens or possibly mystical creatures. Although one can identify the sculpted objects, they still represent something more. Being highly attentive to her inner world, Knoll understood that these figures had not been fashioned by her unintentionally. "After one of my exhibitions, I realized that all these works had a connection to my husband Yoram's injury, who lost a leg in the army. It appears that the coping with the injury and his disability had finally surfaced after many years, and it occurred through the sculptures. "From my perspective, it meant closure." Knoll doesn't have a fixed daily schedule or specific hours she devotes to her work. "I can be away from the studio for an entire week, and then close myself off there for days on end. That usually happens before exhibitions, which manage to excite me each time anew." 

Starting on April 13th, Knoll will be taking part in an open air art exhibition held on Alrov Mamilla Avenue in Jerusalem, whose theme is legends. In a space dedicated solely to her artwork, Knoll will be exhibiting sculptures related to children's fairy tales. The main sculpture is one that holds special meaning for her. "It's a sculpture that I've wanted to create for many years, but didn't dare," she says. "I took Little Red Riding Hood and made her contemporary. I removed the cape that covered her hands, and she now walks proudly holding a chain to which the wolf is tied, whose face is that of a man." The sculpture and the transformation of the fairy tale are not unintended. For 15 years Knoll volunteered at a rape crisis center, and the assaults and violence against women led her to deal with these themes. "In many respects, I feel that it's the height of my lifetime work," she says. Another sculpture that will be on display at the Jerusalem exhibition also underwent a renewed adaptation. "I took one of my existing sculptures of a woman whose hands are reaching up, and converted into a sculpture that is 2 meters high. The prayer and supplication attributed to the Biblical matriarch Rachel - 'and the children shall return to their own border' - which is inscribed on the sculpture, speaks to me so much because I have a grandson in the army. The drama inherent in the sculpture communicates this message very well." 

Knoll loves to experiment with different materials, but also maintains a special relationship with them. "When I come to the studio, I haven't planned in advance what I'm going to do," she says. "I simply take the material and things begin to emerge from it. There's something about the material that allows you to do whatever you want with it. I like the fact that I can try something and then dismantle it and create something new, and reach a point of perfection that includes fingerprints and handprints that remain on the material." 

Like any other artist, Knoll often faces the dilemma of releasing her artwork into the world at large. "I always thought that I was capable of parting from my work easily," she says. "But after a lot of soul searching, I realized that it's actually quite difficult. I remember where every work has gone to, and find myself troubled by questions such as: did they use the right frame or did they place the sculpture in the optimal spot, because if not – it really hurts. However, in many instances I'm invited to advise them about where to place the sculpture or hang the painting. But when they don't, these questions continue to preoccupy me. After all the years of creating art, I can say that I'm finally in the process of learning how to let go." 

Even though she never studied art formally, Knoll believes that doing so is important because formal studies are enriching and contribute knowledge and experience. Furthermore, she says, they are important to your resume: "It may be inappropriate to admit it, but an artist will find it very difficult to be accepted to an exhibition if he lacks a formal degree." Knoll herself studies all the time by taking classes and workshops with other artists. "For example, I recently returned to drawing and am experimenting with everything – and most of all, I keep on training my brain and my hand." Her artwork appears on her website and can also be seen in exhibits throughout the country. Some of her newer work is on display at the Hitachi Contemporary Art Gallery, the Tolmans outlet in Herzlyia Pituach, and the Toot furniture store gallery in Ramat Hasharon. 

Many of Knoll's works have been acquired by collectors from abroad, and she doesn't hide her desire that they buy them: "It enables me to continue creating art and pursue my path, because art is an expensive hobby," she says.



sara knoll - playing with material