• Imi Knoebel
  • Winston Roeth

"Before, when I didn't know what colour to put down, I put down black. Black is a force: I depend on black to simplify the construction. Now I've given up blacks." Henri Matisse

At the end of the 2021 we presented a beautiful exhibition called Raven in both the Auckland and the Sydney galleries. Each of the works followed Henry Ford's much quoted dictum…"you can have it in any colour you want, as long as its black. And though both Knoebel and Roeth are widely celebrated for their profound engagement with colour, from time to time, each set it aside as they reach back as if to reorient themselves - Roeth more towards the final paintings of Reinhardt, Knoebel certainly back to Malevich. Whatever this process invites, it is not long before each is once again lassoed by the psychological, emotional & visceral allure of colour. Neither have or likely will ever abandon black as Matisse suggested he had, it’s just that like Hockney, most all of the time they “prefer living in colour”.

My working relationship with Winston Roeth stretches back to the tail-end of the 20th century – still feels odd to say that. We met in NYC in the mid 90s and it was and continues to be a revelatory connection - for Winston is the rarest painter of deep and compelling sensation, a painter who seems able to access colour’s truly magical capacities. More critically, without meeting him in 1995 it feels less likely I’d have met Imi Knoebel five years later, such was the epiphany I enjoyed in Roeth’s Broome Street studio, about where the gallery’s future lay.

Despite his seemingly strict adherence to borders and grids, geometry itself may, ironically, hold less interest. Looking at certain works, the grids especially, this may appear to be a perverse suggestion, but my feeling is that his employment of regular calculus allows Winston to stabilise the buoyancy and volatility of colour. He delights in the activity that the intersections can invite, the ‘op-ish’ animation that occurs as pigments double up and react to volume and speed - but perhaps such exacting architecture may be the only way that he can approach measuring the immeasurable.

Knoebel too uses geometry both logistically and expressively. Often his paintings are built out from the wall taking the form of an expanded matrix – thus colour gets opportunity to swell further as the construction of the object allows for its thickness and body. Knoebel is more inclined to jolt the orthogonal, destabilising the conformity of the grid so as to adjust and enliven it - as Mondrian demonstrated in the glorious New York City 1. Like Roeth, Knoebel doesn’t seek answers in mathematics. Such Formalism is a dead-end and neither would dare entertain such Calvinist restrictions when colour offers up such carnal pleasure.

In Deluxe both paintings by Winston Roeth comprise 24 stone slates. Each are essentially the same size with two holes through which nails fix them to the wall. Roeth selects his slates carefully – he has always been mindful about the supports he uses, having long ago abandoned the orthodox linen-stretcher combination. The surfaces of the slate have a flattened topography complete with gentle ravines and ridges that have telling implications for the way that pigment and light gather across this territory. The variegated edge of each slate heightens this activity as the iridescent qualities on his pigment become even more evident. The juxtaposition of colour has a nigh-on bebop jazziness to it, your eye moving around the grid in search of the next note. The gold grid is quieter, positively hushed by comparison. It works a tonal register...a little more Bob James than Bitches Brew.

Imi Knoebel’s Anima Mundi works have grown incrementally over many years to now feel like a profound statement of chromatic and symbolic intent in his broad and energetic practice. Harking back to the form and character of the Grace Kelly Portraits, these small vertical panels operate as single works and then gather into clusters of 2, 3, 4 & 5. As they gather, they assemble a glorious chromatic discord and funkiness. Like Roeth’s more bebop compositions, the eye is not invited to rest and be seduced by the calm of the monochrome. Knoebel’s playing is spikier, unexpected – we understand colour by contrast and collision.

However idiosyncratic these two wonderful painters’ exploration of colour is, it is a rare treat to see them in such close conversation. Such retinal pleasure feels especially welcome, and it seems Matisse was surprise there...

-Andrew Jensen 2022

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday - Friday 11am - 5pm
  • Saturday 11am -3pm


  • 10 Putiki Street
  • Auckland, 1021