IN THE STUDIO / War on the home front: There is more to the Gulf war artist John Keane than khaki and red.
Tuesday 09 November 1993
Violence pervades all Keane's work. However, there is much more to the painter than his status as official artist of the Gulf war might suggest. 'I'm not a war artist,' he explains. 'I'm interested in the human aspect of conflict. The way people treat each other. What interests me are the motivating ambitions for people today. My work is allegorical, metaphorical.'
Keane's last show was entitled 'The Struggle for the Control of the Television Station'. 'Television as a medium and an instrument of power has become the thing people want. They no longer go for the seat of government, they go for the TV station. Look at Russia.'
Keane accentuates the brutality of his subject with frenzied paintwork. 'I enjoy paint for its own sake and it suits my purpose. I'd like to obscure the image even more. Where there's room for the mind to work it's much more rewarding. I like the palpability of paint. I use a palette knife, a brush and my fingers and a lot of scraping. I've also started distressing the surface with sand and lumps of stone to see where that leads.'
Such experiments are evident in Keane's latest painting, on the wall behind him, in which a middle-class family at dinner ignore a burning building, a man in a cardboard box and a baby kicking a skull. 'It's an oblique reference to Bosnia. But it's really about our acceptance of a comfortable lifestyle while there's so much going on around us that's distressing. I want my work to be hard-hitting; my fear is of it lapsing into cliche.'
Keane targets our obsession with material possession, mocking and warning with a parade of stereos, computers and car- phones. The car and the television set are old favourites. 'Contemporary imagery is important to me. A burning car is a very powerful image. It encapsulates the two opposing forces of our time: technical expertise and the power to destroy. That really excites me.' And there it is, right outside his door.
John Keane. Born 1954. Camberwell School of Art. His work is included in the John Moore's Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool to 23 Jan 1994.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
25 years of Disney: How Darth Vader, Iron Man, Elsa and Pixar's geniuses helped the company conquer the world (again)
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account