Tom Knott


A few years ago I wanted to explore working with a new medium — for the adventures in learning new techniques & for the discoveries that come through the dialogues with new materials. Remembering the work I did with metal (mostly machining) decades ago, I thought about steel & about welding. Little did I know what would happen!

As I set up a little welding shop, I began working with found metal & reforming it into sculptures that seemed to continue from much earlier work in assemblage sculpture (mostly with found objects …). I also begin to see more geometrical forms with the mind’s eye.

One day, I watched the classic yin-yang symbol become a ring, with an S-shape joining the two edges through the center… & suddenly saw that the form had only a single surface — like a Mobius strip, but not a Mobius strip!

This has become a deep symbol … metaphor … sign … realization of the essential unity of the world. Like every other human being, I continue to struggle with the way things, ideas, persons, seem determined to appear in my interior world as separated objects; in harmony or conflict, in their apparent separateness. Yet when I see a bit more deeply, more broadly, they are all interconnected … push or pull on one & all the others move too.

It strikes me that this experience of essential unity is healing for the pain we all feel from separation, from each other & from the natural world — matters which we are now facing wherever we turn in today’s world. So this is what lies at the heart of this work.

There is wonderful delight & beauty revealed in this experience — in the sculpture, these appear in the lines & surfaces of simple bent steel strips. As I visualized these pieces in houses, part of daily life, I wanted them to be tunable, because sculpture is a 3D experience. As “luck” would have it, I found a still-working ball bearing at the Depot to see how that could work … & when I turned the newly mounted piece & let go … it kept on spinning! Time became the fourth dimension, bound to the three of the material sculpture.

So, I am having the adventure I only barely imagined when I thought, “I could work with metal …”

I moved to Vancouver in 1970 from the US, to begin an academic career & because it was a good time to leave the “States”. By 1975, I found that the dreams & interior experiences coming to me were leading inexorably away from the intellectual into things that I could only express in images. So I began serious explorations in the most easily accessible (to me) medium, photography. A friend was photographing a lot on Hornby Island, I really liked what I saw in his images … so we came up here to photograph & hang out for a few days. I found not just images, but the first place I felt as home in my life. And the power of the stones & bones &c that came back with me from photographing in the natural world led me into assemblage sculpture. It took another 13 years to leave Vancouver, as I had to see my kids through high school. I supported us as a self-taught builder & cabinetmaker. Since 1988 I have lived in my home, here on this island.

My work (& I) can be seen regularly at the Farmers’ Market, occasionally in shows at the HIAC Gallery & the Hall, & by appointment at my studio.