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Arts and culture

Meet Garth Knight, the artist creating sensual masterpieces of sculpture with bondage and rope

Garth Knight is the Sydney based artist best known for his photography works and live installations using bondage and rope. By binding live models into haunting webs of erotic and structural forms, Knight creates stunning works that evolve and change over time, exploring ideas of strength and power, nature and relenting.

The installations last for days, with each model being bound for hours at a time. Like trees suspended in air, the model becomes entwined with boulders and rocks in a network of rope, rooted fast, shaping the piece. Once their sitting is over, they are released and the rope is built into the tree before the next model is embraced. Always growing and evolving, the still images that are created after the show depict a single moment in its life; stirring and unique.

This year Knight is bringing his art to new audiences across Australia with his first ever live show in Melbourne; we sit down with him to discuss his works, and the line between BDSM and art.

Garth Knight: “Over the last few years I have realised how much I enjoy the live performances and I want to do more of them. This trip to Melbourne is my first foray into taking my art to new places and I love the idea of packing up my equipment from my studio, travelling to a new place and creating there. It becomes a living beast of its own, and I get to grow it in a new place, over the course of a few days. Watch it change, and more people influence it, and then I take it down, and it moves on.”

Knight has been using rope since 2000, and says that seeing someone being bound for the first time using Shibari (a type of Japanese bondage) was like a revelation.

“The first time I tied someone up I knew I had found my passion, but the psychological and emotional aspects came later.”

Garth Knight: “I began my career as an engineer, and lines and structure have always fascinated me. I started playing around with rope by myself at first, sort of stumbling around in the dark, but then I started to learn different techniques and built them into my own style. The first time I tied someone up I knew I had found my passion, but the psychological and emotional aspects came later. As they developed, I began to get a new understanding of the art form, and I still feel like there are new worlds to discover.”

Emen8: Tell us about the nature of your rope play and why the focus on trees and rocks?

Garth Knight: “As an artist, I am exploring our perception; our relationship between our mind, and our physicality. How our consciousness is connected to the physical world and the interphase between the two.

I use rocks because they have a gravity and power to them; they centre things and become a focused point, both physically in the sculptures giving weight and tension to the rope, but also in the psychology of them.

And the trees are symbolic of the dance between chaos and order in the world that I’m very interested in. They symbolise the flow of consciousness between our inner self and the physical world. Almost in the same way trees are planted to the ground and draw water through their roots, and the flow of oxygen through them that’s then released. We do the same with our subconscious, becoming our conscious thought. It’s this ebb and flow of nature, it’s representative of the flow of consciousness and energy through us.”

“As an artist, I am exploring our perception; our relationship between our mind, and our physicality.”

Emen8: At the heart of every sculpture is the model, bound for hours at a time, often mostly naked in a public space. Can you describe the preparation that goes into it and the relationship dynamic it creates?

Garth Knight: “There’s definitely a preparation period, stretching to warm up the body and such for them. For me, there’s a lot of planning and technical preparation that goes into it before, but when you’re in the moment that all melts away. It’s like muscle memory and your mind shifts from that technical state and it becomes instinctual.

There are often moments when the body starts to react to being bound, I don’t want to say panic, but it is a sort of fight or flight response, and you do need to calm yourself and go through that, and tell yourself you can do it. And that’s what I do as the artist, I take them through that, over that little cliff edge, it’s a leap of faith, and there might be one or many during the course of it.

It’s a lot more meditative and transcendental, where we’re stepping out of this world and putting our minds in a different space. I’m leading them, and talking them through it, and I then go with them, we’re leading each other into that space. We go together. It can be pretty other worldly.”

Emen8: How much of your work would you say is erotic?

Garth Knight: “I would say it’s more sensual than erotic. Creating art in a public space, you step back from that – you’re not sexually involved. There’s always that physicality there, when you’re bound it’s almost like your other senses become more intense, you’re very focused on your body, the feel of the rope, the sights, the sounds. So, while it’s an incredibly sensual thing, it’s more about your mind and the place you go there; all these other feelings and perceptions, they become the purpose, and the journey, and the resolution.”

“when you’re bound it’s almost like your other senses become more intense, you’re very focused on your body, the feel of the rope, the sights, the sounds.”

Emen8: Considering such intensity in the work, and the beauty of the formations created over so many days of meditation and work, how does it feel to have to take it all down at the end?

“Sometimes it’s really hard. The first time, I went through this reflection on how everything that’s born dies. And for something to live again, it has to die. The untying of the tree, is just part of the process of giving life to something new. It has to come down, so that the rope can be repurposed and built into the next piece. Again, it’s that cycle and flow of energy, moving onto the new, moving into the next creation.”

To view Garth Knight’s work you can click here to visit his events page, or follow him on his website and order his stunning works here.

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