Hartgrove, Paintings and Photographs
22 Jan – 13 Mar 2010
Paintings and Photographs
January 22 – March 13 2010
The British born artist Ian McKeever (b.1946) is best known for his highly aesthetic and philosophically complex serial paintings with their semitransparent layers of paint one on top of another. However, throughout McKeever’s work photography has also played a part alongside his paintings, as inspiration or sketches and also in direct combination as in the early the works. In this way the artist has through the years created a supplementary dialogue which comments on, interprets, illuminates, enriches and develops the painting and the complex of problems involved in the work as a whole. For the first time these photographs are showed alongside a series of his large paintings at the exhibition Hartgrove. Paintings and Photographs.
The Hartgrove series reference the place in England where McKeever lives. The Hartgrove Paintings were made in 1992-93 immediately after the artist’s move to rural Dorset. The large format of the works (from 230 x 220 cm to 300 x 315 cm) relate with their infinite sense of eternity and play with light and darkness, lightness and depth, directly to the open landscape and the surrounding light of this environment. The photographs are classical black and white prints, all interior shots in small intimate formats (21,5 x 17 cm) made over the last two years. They are shot in the artist’s home and the motifs are those of his close surroundings – the light through a window, a pile of crockery on a tea towel, the railing of a staircase, the back of a chair. Some of the motifs are merely indications and in this way come to deal more with the hint of a mood, brief moments in time, the play of light in a room or on the surface of objects and thereby at times can gain an almost Hammershoj quality. Some of the photographs relates directly to the paintings through compositional grids translated as window hatches, the fluctuating lines of fragments of furniture, crockery and kitchen utensils. But first and foremost the key subject matter of the photographs is the play between light and shadow which echoes the paintings layered and changeable concerns – They are a lot about light, how light catches something and momentarily changes it, as the artist says. The photographs thereby become an inter-textural self reference to the earlier Hartgrove Paintings and an earlier period in the artist’s life. The paintings and photographs become an exterior and interior response to my living here at different times.
McKeever’s work is saturated with a cohesive unity. This is partly reflected through a series of themes which he repeatedly deals with and partly through a continual formal investigation which through the various series develops but always with references to earlier works and expressions.
Light, grids, veils, openings/closings, air and body are some of the formal problems which have absorbed McKeever, also the more conceptual topics such as natural history, literature, art history, philosophy, religion, and the relationship between east and west is encapsulated in his work. In the Hartgrove paintings it is the landscape, light and air that play the key part although without them ever becoming traditional landscape paintings. They are physical works and at the same time ethereal, and rather than a concrete visualization of the scenic, the landscape is echoed through an epistemological and almost phenomenological sensation of the hovering, enticing grid and network of translucent layers which surrounds the body of the spectator. The grid becomes indicative both of the expansive and the infinite, also a veil through which we are lured in whilst at the same time kept at a distance. The works have been likened to the Arabic architectural Mashrabiya screens, which as a porous membrane or veil screens mediates between the private and the public. The photographs are also hushed indications of the intimate and tranquil moments of private life but at the same time they possess a playfulness expressed through the experimentation with light and shadow which adds an element of abstraction and poetry to the otherwise familiar everyday motifs. The collocution of the large paintings and the smaller photographs in this way conveys a deeper meaning on several levels. The photograph as a medium is inseparably connected with light and ‘to photograph’ etymologically means ‘to write with light’. The play with light and shadow, translucent layers and contrasts illuminates the way Ian McKeever works with the two media, in this way the Hartgrove exhibition becomes a summary of the artist’s production over the years, from the early physical exterior landscape paintings to the later works dealing with a more interior world across a multiplicity of meanings.