Ian McKeever, “Paintings and Photographs”
Umeå, 23.3–5.5 2013
Ground-breaking British painter Ian McKeever, by venturing out towards alternative grounds, set himself apart from predominating art circles early on. For more than 40 years, McKeever has created series of interrelated, often large-scale, paintings, drawings and photographs, often permeated by distinct structures of layers. He is undoubtedly one of the most well-established painters in England, honoured as member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2003. Galleri Andersson/ Sandström is now opening its fifth exhibition with McKeever, in an installation encompassing both Stockholm and Umeå galleries.
McKeever begins his process of painting by sensing a shape, and then slowly bringing it into existence. Each series of paintings may take over two years to complete. Layer upon layer of thinly washed colours of oil and acrylic are applied to the canvas. Shape is stacked upon shape, and transparencies are cross-sectioned into solids using austere gradations of black and white, or as seen here, vibrating hues of primary colours. McKeever states: ”Our lives are now flooded with images which remorselessly bombard us with what we ‘should’ know, and which steal our time. Perhaps one of the things which paintings can do for us, if we are prepared to be still in front of them, is to give us back our own sense of time and the independence which goes with it.”
A fundamental element in Ian McKeever’s creativity is travel. He searches out remote corners of the world, reaching for expanded conceptions of time and place, having explored regions such as Afghanistan, the Sahara, Greenland, Tasmania and Siberia. The metaphysical qualities immanent in his works both stem from and are a motive for these journeys. Journeys which ultimately lead to meditative works with a monumental presence, responding to the time and stillness of the beholder. He elaborates: “Perhaps one of the main impulses behind all paintings is the desire to rise above our mundane condition, countered by the need to hold onto and define the physical world.” Not unlike the shadow-play in Plato’s cave, a painting by McKeever is a stage for the senses, pointing to the underlying textures and frequencies of the world.
McKeever’s approach is experimental, working outdoors or at night in the glow of the street lights outside. Exploring methods to propel his senses deeper into the process of painting, inviting his sense of touch or the memory of his hand to compensate for the lack of sight, stating that: “I paint from what is, for me, a very fragile ground, negotiated between the self and the world beyond. The paintings are felt and touched into being.” The finished paintings exist on the threshold of figuration, where shapes can transform either into or away from the figurative.
Ian McKeever, born 1946 in Withernsea, England, participated in his first exhibition in Berlin, 1971. Since then, he has had a rich presence in the arts both as painter and teacher, exploring topics such as the light in Western painting and the contemporary status of abstraction. McKeever’s extensive biography includes exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, the New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, the Royal Academy of Arts in London and group exhibitions Dialogue at Moderna Museet in 1985 and British Art in the Eighties at Liljevalchs in Stockholm, 1987. His works are incorporated in the collections of Tate Gallery, British Museum, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Nordic Watercolor Museum, KIASMA and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.