Ian McKeever: Gerlinde

2 June - 5 August 2023

HackelBury is pleased to present ‘Gerlinde’, a solo exhibition of new work by Royal Academician Ian McKeever. This new body of work, his most personal to date, is the portrait of a woman, a love letter to his wife. Drawing on abandoned drawings and his archive of photographs which capture everyday objects in a domestic setting, his black and white photographs are filled with light and shadow, providing evocative glimpses of the human presence which merge with silhouetted objects and structures from their home.


McKeever’s emphasis on an abstract language fosters ambiguity. His interest is in pushing the conventional notion of photography as a literal, figurative representative of reality away and establishing a visual language providing only transitory glimpses of reality. This invites the viewer to focus on the compositional elements such as the quality of light and balance of shadow, the drawn line and assembled object, the ‘aura’ of the edge between gouache and photograph, the silhouetted form and the gestural mark. 


McKeever is intrigued as to ‘where the image begins and finishes’ and the glimpse of a fleeting moment in which nothing is fixed. His work explores the meeting point between the ‘truth’ of photography and the language of painting. The gap between the photograph’s instant reality and the slow incremental process of mark-making in painting. 


In some of the work, McKeever has photographed objects against strong sunlight to evoke an almost gestural painting imbued with a calligraphic quality reminiscent of Japanese Shoji screens which were traditionally used to provide visual privacy. 


The artist’s exploration of the domestic setting could also be said to be as a meditation on such artists as American photographer Charles Sheeler, whose work in the 1930s, after documenting local buildings for architects, took a new direction when he began photographing the interior of his home, drawing out compositions of solids and spaces. Also, in his use of torn or cut papers, McKeever draws on the poetic language of Matisse’s ‘cut-outs’, to explore the balance and boundaries between abstraction and representation, photography and painting, edge and space, and shadow and light. This new body of work has a cinematic quality in which the artist captures the essence of someone’s presence through objects in the space around them. As Marcel Proust wrote:

“….I am myself again. Pleasure in this respect is like photography. What we take, in the presence of the beloved object, is merely a negative, which we develop later, when we are back at home, and have once again found at our disposal that inner darkroom the entrance to which is barred to us so long as we are with other people.”

In Search for Lost Time, Volume II

“There is poetry in ordinary things. Each object has its own story. To see is one thing, to look is another. If we are mindful, if we are quiet we might find something of ourselves in the net of shadows on the kitchen floor, in the wind lifting the edge of a lace curtain or the outline of an orchid silhouetted against a white wall by a ray of morning sun. The poet William Blake claimed we could find ‘the world in a grain of sand’.

A house is a place of daydreams. To look is to be present. To be in the world. It is a sort of love. Each room, each nook and cranny has its own tale, is a calendar of those moments that make up our lives. The dress thrown casually over a bedroom chair that suggests both desire and rest. The fallen petals of a flower scattered on a tablecloth that remind us of the brevity of existence. In his haunting, barely-there images Ian McKeever creates visual haiku from domestic objects. Information is distilled to its essence. Objects appear through veils of light, through whispered suggestions that, like a cello concerto, open doors onto lost memories and small corners of the world where, if we are still, we might find something intimate, something important, something of ourselves.”

Sue Hubbard, London 08.04.2023