Jasper Knight loves to reference songs in the titles of his paintings and exhibitions and what better way to name a show – a show about much-loved legends of the silver screen – than with the Beach Boys’ 1967 hit Heroes and Villains. Knight’s latest body of work is a series of eight paintings on linen and cotton card, depicting some of the artist’s favourite screen heroes, anti-heroes and villains.
Each of Knights characters are from very different films, whose histories aren’t linked directly. Instead, they are linked by the broad brush of their cult status: evil antics and heroism. This status is sometimes accidental, like Holly Hunter in Fargo, or Forrest Gump running across America. Some of Knight’s portraits are comical, often for the wrong reasons, such as Danny de Vito playing the Penguin in Batman Returns; while some of his subjects are chosen for their costume design, like Lazenby as 007, or the Wicked Witch of the West. Other characters were truly groundbreaking, needing no introduction to their selection by Knight: Marlene Dietrich in full tuxedo from the 1930 film Morocco, and Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York.
While this body of work is a scrapbook of Knight’s cinematic experience, it is ultimately a homage to the actors and characters that have shaped the landscape of film.
Jasper Knight is a frequent finalist in the Archibald, Sulman and Moran prizes. Most recently he was a finalist in the 2020 Mosman Art Prize, and a 2019 finalist in the Archibald Prize. This year his portrait of Euan McLeod was selected for the prestigious Salon des Refuses: The ‘alternative’ Archibald and Wynne Prize. He has been awarded the Australia Council Emerging and Established New Work Grant, the Freedman Foundation Scholarship and the Rocks Art Prize. He has also been a finalist in the Blake Prize, the ABN-Amro Prize, The Helen Lempriere, The Brett Whiteley Prize and was the 2009 winner of The Mosman Art Prize. In 2008 he opened Chalk Horse gallery with the generous support of the Australia Council and the City of Sydney. Knight’s work is represented in most NSW regional gallery collections, Artbank and the National Gallery of Australia. His first major book is forthcoming, published by Thames & Hudson.