||Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM
Bahamian photographer and body painting artist Monty Knowles is hitting
the rails literally. His artwork of the Danish National Women’s
Handball Team decorates high speed trains in Europe as Denmark prepares
to host the world championship starting December 5.
Bahamian’s Paintings Making Tracks in Europe, Trains Carrying Images by World Famous Body Painting Artist Monty Knowles
In The Bahamas, Monty Knowles is a soft-spoken, regular sort of guy.
Architect by profession, photographer by choice, artist by design. And
in recent years, that artistry has taken him to new places, focusing his
architecturally trained eye on marrying external form and inner beauty
of the human body, using bones, muscle and skin, hands and arms, torso
and legs, feet and even fingers as a blank canvas begging for attention.
This is the Monty Knowles The Bahamas knows -- a humble guy who lives on
a 40-something- year-old boat, who asks questions and proposes new
ideas in equally rapid fire succession and who confesses his fear about a
major personal defect – an absolute inability to remember names. The
talented Monty Knowles, an unassuming national treasure and
But in Europe, just about everyone knows his name. Monty Knowles is hot.
He’s so hot, you can literally see the steam coming off his work. This
summer he painted the women who make up the Danish national women’s
handball team. Their images are everywhere. Since September, the
national champion’s painted body -- poised for offense, ball in
fingertips ready for power shot -- has wrapped a high speed train,
taking Knowles’ creation zipping back and forth across the landscape at
over 200 miles an hour. And this week, as Denmark gears up to host the
Heart of Handball, the world championship, Knowles will be on display
He’s painting in front of crowds expected to top 100,000 both at one of
Denmark’s most prestigious museums and in the Fanzone of the immensely
popular Heart of Handball championship where he will be positioned
during the championship.
“When they first mentioned museum and suggested that I might be able to
show there, I was thinking art gallery, like a pretty shop or something,
but they actually meant the incredible museum in Herning, a city that
reveres and is known for its art and architecture. I can’t believe it
but they have created a whole new space for me,” said Knowles whose fame
in Europe has been growing steadily since he first burst onto the scene
At first he toyed with screens for buildings, a temporary artistic
exterior fixer-upper. But he quickly turned his attention to something
more personal, the human body. In between were travels – Cambodia,
Australia, Paris, Germany, Denmark. Everywhere he went he found
something he wanted to paint and photograph or photograph and paint, but
his mind kept coming back to the most colourful art he knew, the
vibrant, bold shouting costumes of Junkanoo.
He knew he could finally
bring all his structural and artistic strengths together, creating a
Junkanoo body costume. The wanderlust that had taken him more than
halfway around the world more than once brought him home to produce the
first Junkanoo nymph. That was three years ago. Now that nymph is part
of the Ministry of Tourism’s ‘sales force’, Knowles’ painted nymph is a
striking beauty fully clothed in body paint complete with headpiece.
Photographs of her have appeared around the world. And it is the
photography that Knowles believes will remain as legacy.
“I can’t remember a time I did not have a camera in my hand or that I
looked at a scene or a moment in time and did not wonder what was the
best angle and perfect lighting to shoot that moment,” said Knowles, who
was still in primary school when his artwork first earned recognition.
Once he started painting Junkanoo costumes on bodies, he began searching
for new locations and sets against which to photograph the artwork he
was creating, flying his plane with models and lighting assistants to
various Bahamian islands, his favourite location, Great Harbour Cay in
the Berry Islands because of the light.
The idea for the handball paintings came about late in 2014 when Knowles
was in Denmark for the birth of his second son. A friend came up with
the idea and pitched it to the Danish Handball Association.
“We thought that it would be a really interesting way to promote the
Championships...and they agreed,” said Knowles. “Femininity and
Fierceness was the concept. This dual concept was tricky, especially as
we wanted four unique paint schemes. We painted in the dead of winter in
a large studio that was difficult to heat and therefore tricky to keep
the players warm while being painted.”
Each paint session was more than 10 hours plus photography. Knowles
credits the Handball Association organizers with making sure that the
process ran smoothly and efficiently.
“Working with the players was a joy,” said Knowles. “These were all
world-class athletes and every one of them was fun and engaging. They
were all-around great people to work with. You could almost feel their
bodies vibrating with coiled energy through the paint brush although
they did a fantastic job of lying still for all of those hours.”
What’s next for Knowles who left for Denmark December 2? “I’ll be home on
December 21, just in time for Junkanoo,” he said, a smile spreading across his face, a twinkle in his eye.
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