The lustrous beauty of quivering horse flesh; anticipatory, agile, fleet and stacked to the boards with magnificent attitude, there is nothing quite as seductive as a horse. There is also nothing quite as seductive as the obsession of riding and Keeling is certainly no stranger to this with two magnificent horses now occupying much of her time. That Keeling has chosen to paint horses from the top of their field, those that most typify their breed and trained purpose, whether that be racing, dressage, show jumping or Polo, while testament to the perfection of the animals individual physicality is also indicative of equine husbandry’s perpetual striving for excellence. As such, Keeling has captured the exaggerated musculature of the champion that is equally desired for the ensuing talent and extreme aesthetics of exemplification; the elongation of More Strawberry’s flank where every vessel is primed for speed, as apposed to the crested curves of Zena that posit absolute control and unmistakable intelligence. The addition of specific tack, such as the double bridle and supple leather reins draped across the wither and strong shoulder of Australia's leading dressage horse Victory Salute, or the sheer elegance of Colthaga’s Mexican grackle, further denotes the ongoing adherence to rigorous specification.
In painting each horse in isolation, Keeling has denied the contextual narration of the equine painting genre. Gone are the bucolic George Stubb’s pastures, the rural grit of Edvard Munch’s galloping steeds or the war and race narratives of Sir Alfred Munnings, rather it is a pared down contemplation of the horse alone, where coat, colour, form, conformational difference of flank and stature, long slim necks and arching manes are the only drivers. In effect each horse is objectified as prime, without the stultifying competition pose of traditional horse portraiture; rather they are captured to define the individual horse’s personality. What makes this particularly interesting is the clarity of attitude the horse presents to the viewer. The result is mesmerising, in that an instant anthropomorphic reading takes place, where the horse’s intent is clear and marked, whether it be nonplussed as Colthaga or as cocky as Yandoo Zenzel. The eyes in particular drive this home with Aber Hallo casting a look that is thoroughly cognisant of the viewer’s adoration. And while adoration is certainly part of the equation, the underlining force of the work is the physicality of the horse as object, refined, statuesque and epitomising excellence.
Article: Equestrian Life
Article: Bazaar Magazine
Press Release: Anwen Keeling - The falling dark
3 – 29 March 2007 at Liverpool Street Gallery
Liverpool Street Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition of new paintings by Sydney artist, Anwen Keeling. The falling dark is Keeling’s first exhibition with Liverpool Street Gallery and follows her critically acclaimed exhibitions, Langour (2005), at Art Galleries Schubert, Queensland and Waiting Room (2004) at Brian Moore Gallery, Sydney.
Keeling’s beguiling, realist paintings capture suspended moments in fictional lives with a reverence for drama, suspense and elegance. Like film stills from an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Keeling’s isolated female figures are placed in a series of interiors where the space is either suffused with subtle, refracted light or illuminated by the harsh glare of an electric bulb. A film noir ambience is achieved with chiaroscuro effects and deep shadows which suggest an emotional and psychological undercurrent to the work. Yet the viewer is left to create their own narrative. In Suspense (2007), a young woman pauses, mid-step, upon a spiral staircase, shrouded in deep shadow. Anxiety radiates from her thin frame. She is poised, alert, listening. But what has she heard to induce such emotion? Elements of mystery and suspense are contrasted with moments of intense personal rest and reflection, where the viewer is obliged to acknowledge their own voyeuristic intrusion. In Drifting (2006), the viewer inadvertently intrudes upon the languid, naked form of a young woman, reclining in the bath, lost in her own reverie. “These luminous paintings of domestic interiors are so tantalisingly realistic you’ll feel compelled to apologise for the intrusion”.*
Technically proficient with both the camera and the brush, Keeling stages her scenes by photographing her models in domestic settings. She then skillfully employs rich pigments, heavy glazes and sensual brush marks to create her unnervingly precise paintings, though she shies away from the term photo-realism:
"The technical process of painting is extremely important to me, as I investigate the material qualities (and possibilities) of paint. But I am always wary of the term photorealism. It occasionally attaches itself to my work. I feel that my work is not photorealist, as I never try and deny it is a painted surface, the glazing and brush marks are still evident and important. "
Born in Sydney in 1976, Anwen Keeling holds a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours and University Medal from the Australian National University, Canberra. She completed a Masters of European Fine Art from the Winchester School of Art, South Hampton University in Barcelona, Spain. She has exhibited in Spain, Japan and England and enjoyed sell-out exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and the Gold Coast. Her work was selected for The Year in Art (2003) and Salon des Refuses (2004) at the SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney and her portrait of Sydney radio personalities Merrick and Rosso was exhibited in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (2004) at the State Library of New South Wales. Keeling’s work is represented in the collections of the National Australia Bank and Australian National University, Canberra as well as numerous private collections in Australia, United States, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
* Dominique Angeloro, ‘Critic’s Picks’, Metro, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 September 2004
For more information and high resolution images please contact Liverpool Street Gallery on 02 8353 7799 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Open gallery: Clara Iaccarino
The Falling Dark
Anwen Keeling is a painter of remarkable dexterity who opens the door on women in private moments. Sunburst (pictured) features a woman striped by the shadows of a blind, her perfectly painted body flecked by light. Keeling rejects the term photo-realism, but it is difficult to avoid such a label because her images are so lifelike.
Sydney Morning Herald, Arts & Entertainment March 10-11, 2007
Anwen Keeling’s world is a shadowy, elegant place. It’s a place alive with the haunting beauty of the sky after a flash of lightning; the emptiness between people when conversation clatters to the floor; the tension of a held breath behind a locked door.
Like film stills from a Hitchcock thriller, Anwen’s latest exhibition, ‘The Falling Dark’, captures elegant visions of isolated women poised on the edge of something more. In ‘Suspense’ a blonde woman climbs a dark staircase, her face hidden by shadows, her body heavy with anticipation. In ‘Drifting’ a woman is suspended in the bath, lost in thought as the delicate afternoon light washes over her. Through chiaroscuro effects and photo-realistic interiors the paintings project a dark, dramatic narrative that’s at once deeply familiar but impossible to pin down. As Anwen describes, her work often focuses on that intensely personal moment when we finally recognise what’s going on. And as viewers, the voyeuristic appeal of intruding into someone’s inner-most thoughts makes ‘The Falling Dark’ truly gripping viewing.
By Jade Warne
Image (above): Anwen Keeling, Suspense, 2007, oil on linen, 132 x 76 cm