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Ian McKeever - Against Photography: Early Works, 1975-1990
Exhibition runs 6 June -27 September 2014

Press enquiries: Judy Adam +44 7957121288
on behalf of HackelBury Fine Art

To contact the gallery directly, please call+44 2079378688 or email
Kate Stevens, Director at

Preview exhibition and publication images and editors notes in a pdf here

Find out more about imprint #1 here


A rare opportunity to be fully immersed in the dynamic first two decades of a long and distinguished career, and a fascinating prism through which to view the years that followed; the continuous evolution of structure, scale, and intent, with an unwavering engagement and purpose.

The exhibition at HackelBury Fine Art brings together for the first time since McKeever’s mid-career retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1990 works from the earliest phase of his career.

Highlighting the artist’s transition from a dialogue with drawing, painting and photography to an engagement with pure painting; this movement at the same time mirrors the transition in the work from landscape to abstraction.

Since the birth of photography the 'death of painting' has been foreseen. Battle lines have been drawn not only against other media, photography has simultaneously fought for its own status as art. Within these conflicts the role of photography as an equal and active partner to painting and drawing could easily be overlooked.

In his early work, Ian McKeever left aside these arguments and utilised analogue photography to record and represent observed reality: harnessing the inherent tension between the different media he created a turbulent testbed for the subjective gestural expression of drawing and painting. Through his first two decades he continued to set one against the other with distinct but equal roles in his explorations, eventually allowing the various forces to merge and combine.

Study for Moth Tree, 1985 by Ian McKeever. Photograph and oil on canvas. 62 x 71 cm.

When painting ultimately obliterated the photograph in the early 90s, it would be tempting to think that photography had somehow been lost and discarded. In fact this was merely a fork in a long road. Photography was abandoned for now as a structural and representational function, allowing McKeever's artistic journey to continue more deeply into the distinct nature and materiality of painting and abstraction - a journey that was to continue for another twenty years.

However photography was never completely set aside. McKeever returned to a dialogue between painting and photography twenty years later in his presentation of the Hartgrove Paintings and Photographs, the first of the Artist Laboratory exhibitions at the Royal Academy in 2010. Still analogue, photography was nonetheless now transformed as an expressive tool with which to explore abstraction. Serving again to suggest a sense of reality and place, the photograph was first re-introduced as a structurally separate and distinct entity.

Eagduru 3, 2013 by Ian McKeever. Oil and acrylic on canvas and wood, photograph. 45 x 65 cm.

Only in the last year has the artist returned to a format where the photograph is set directly against the painting in a singular form, attaining a dynamic and fluid equilibrium.

is the Old English word for window. Literally it means 'eye-door' - either to look out of or to physically pass through. In the Eagduru diptychs the two methods of representation and expression co-exist seamlessly yet still distinctly; reinforcing and distinguishing in equal measure. The movement and stasis between them recalls the force and tension of the early works, only now with a profound sense of depth and calm, embracing both the distinction and the difference - a resonance that can perhaps be achieved only with the gathering of experience and practice, and the passing of time.


The exhibition is accompanied by a beautifully illustrated publication imprint, with a substantial text by Mark Prince. The dialectical method of Ian McKeever is examined in depth, along with the wider context of contemporary art made during this period - the relationship between early conceptual art of the 60's and 70's, modernism and post-modernism, refracted by the long history of traditional British Landscape Art; the role of landscape as a pretext for a process, rather than as subject or object, and the tension between the differing modes of representation and material qualities of photography, painting and drawing:

"Ian McKeever's art of the 1970s and 80s is remarkable, for that time and context, in attempting to juggle large-scale painterly abstraction and conceptual, analytical modes. Rather than striving to resolve these contradictions, he transmuted them into a dialectical model which would give onto a series of others, as though in its image: between painting and photography; belief and reason; abstraction and representation; logic and intuition. True to the conceptual, relativistic side of this equation, McKeever's art of the 1970s embodies a conception of an artistic practice as a space accommodating forms of conflict and doubt which later generations would consider threatening to the coherence and autonomy of a single, artistic position, and even an artist's functional self-identity. In the context of market-driven, early 21st-century contemporary art, in which an artist, as marketable entity, is synonymous with a brand and should appear as resolved and singular in purpose as possible from the moment his work is presented, it is salutory to perceive the trajectory of McKeever's early work admitting the irreconcilability of coexisting positions as an ongoing rather than resolvable condition."

Mark Prince, Against Photography: Early Works, 1975-1990.
Imprint, July 2014

Press enquiries: Judy Adam +44 7957121288
on behalf of HackelBury Fine Art

To contact the gallery directly, please call+44 2079378688
or email Kate Stevens, Director a

Preview exhibition and publication images and editors notes in a pdf here

Preview advance pdf sample of imprint #1 here


About the artist:

Ian McKeever (born 1946) studied English literature. His first contact with professional artists was in 1970 when he took on a studio at St. Katherine’s Dock in the east end of London. This was an artist-led Collective of studios initiated by Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgely, the first of the Space Studios. Other artists working there included Bert Irvin and the Austrian Kurt Kocherscheidt.

McKeever’s early works involved placing paintings directly into landscape locations as in White Chalk Quarry, 1974 and Painting for a Hole in the Ground, 1976. These site-specific installations were then documented as photographs. This initial engagement with painting and photography led in subsequent works to a closer dialogue between drawing, painting and photography, in such groups of works as the Field Series, 1977-78 and Lapland Paintings, 1985-86. Unlike other artists working with landscape during this period, such as Richard Long or Hamish Fulton, who resisted an engagement with the orthodoxies of painting and sculpture, as did most conceptual art of the period, McKeever actively sought a dialogue with painting, as still being a viable pursuit.

McKeever has always stood outside of the artistic trends within the British art tradition. In the 1970’s and 80’s his position distanced him from the more hard-core conceptual artists, equally his distinct take on painting has set him apart from the more conventional painting tradition. This has often made the work difficult to place. However, McKeever’s difference is celebrated abroad ‘as a representative of his own unique stamp of contemporary abstract painting’, (Heinz Liesbrock, Josef Albers Museum, Germany).

McKeever over the years has travelled and walked extensively, including trips to Greenland, 1988, Papua New Guinea, 1991, Eastern Siberia, 1995 and 1996. However, unlike most artists who walk in the landscape, he views these expeditions not so much as immersion in the landscape, but rather as an engagement with other cultures. His interest is in being displaced from the ‘known’ aspects of his work in the studio – to be in a new environment where much is unfamiliar and where one feels estranged. ‘There is something liberating about being immersed in a culture where one does not understand a single word of what is being said’.

Ian McKeever was elected an RA in 2003. He received the prestigious DAAD award to live and work in Berlin in 1989-90, and was the first artist to exhibit in the former East Berlin shortly after the wall came down. Since 1971 he has exhibited extensively including major exhibitions at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1981, Kunstverein Braunschweig in 1987, the Intitute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1973 and 1980, the Hayward Gallery, London in 1985, the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1990, the Porin Taidemuseo in 1997, the Kunsthallen Brandts Klaederfabrik, Odense in 2001 and 2007, the Morat Institute, Freiburg in 2005 and 2007, the New Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen in 2006, the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2010, the Sønderjyllands Kunstmuseet in 2011 and the Josef Albers Museum, Quadrat Bottrop in 2012.

He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Dialogue Moderna Museet, Stockholm in 1985 , New Abstraction at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofia, Madrid and Museo d’Art Contemporarie, Barcelona in 1996, Royal Academicians in China at the National Art Gallery in Beijing, the Shanghai Art Museum and The Royal Academy, London in 2005/06, Tate Britain in 2011 and The National Museum of Norway, Oslo in 2012.

The work is represented in numerous public collections in Europe and the USA including Tate Gallery, London, British Museum, London, Arts Council of Great Britain, The Government Art Collection, The British Council, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, Morat Institute, Freiburg, Schloss Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Kunsthalle Nuremberg, Kunsthalle Kiel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæck, New Carlsberg Foundation, Copenhagen, Horsens Kunstmuseum, Sønderjyllands Kunstmuseet, Nordic Aquarell Museum in Sweden, Kiasma, Helsinki, Metropolitain Museum, New York, Yale Center for British Art, Boston Museum of Fine Art, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts and Cincinnati Museum of Modern Art, Cincinnati.

McKeever has written numerous texts and essays on art, including Black and White and How to Paint with a Hammer in 1982, Thoughts on Emil Nolde in 1996 and In Praise of Painting, three essays in 2005, developed out of a series of lectures delivered at the University of Brighton and Cambridge University.

Ian McKeever lives and works in Dorset, England.

About the Gallery:

HackelBury Fine Art has long championed a small group of pioneering artists. Pushing the boundaries of various media; their work and practice encompass the worlds of photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture and performance. Always difficult to classify, these artists stand out in a contemporary landscape that is heavily influenced by status and commodification rather than inherent artistic value and presence. Likewise the gallery has resisted expansion, distilling their stable to a select few artists with long and distinguished careers. Their current pre-occupation is a return to the very earliest works in each artist's history, researching in-depth back to the essence and source of their current position and practice. Rejecting market-led rapid turnover and the cult of the new, they focus instead on a depth and breadth of vision, and the gradual manifestation of a life's work.

All of this is echoed in their approach to collectors, building long-term relationships and a dynamic conduit direct to the artists. The focus is on illuminating the ideas and philosophy of each artist, and the experience of the work itself – what it means to us on a visceral rather than purely an intellectual or commercial level. This can offer a much more personal and meaningful way to collect, particularly with regular studio trips to meet the artists where possible. These visits are always in small groups, and both artists and collectors find the exchange uplifting and inspirational. Rare early works are often discovered, along with the latest projects and series before they are seen in public. Eschewing aggressive sales tactics, HackelBury prefers a quieter approach; a unique sensitivity to the nuances of the market, the collector and the artist, as each develops and changes.






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Telephone: +44 20 7937 8688
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