Holly Keogh: Not to Put Too Fine a Point On It

Holly Keogh

Artwork’s Title: Not to Put Too Fine a Point On It

Medium: Oil on canvas

Year: 2020

Holly Keogh, Not to Put Too Fine a Point On It, 2020, oil on canvas, 4’ x 4’

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

There are usually a few parts of my process going on at the same time. The first is the influence of my environment; the books, music, conversations, and body language that make up the texture of my life in the present. I am always trying to replicate these moments in my paintings. The second part of my process involves combing through my archive of family photographs. I treat the figures in these photographs as a starting point from which my own consciousness supplants the subjects personality. Psychologically charged portraits emerge from tension between my will to remember and my power to project. With this treatment, the paintings arrive at something that is as familiar as it is open to interpretation; a combination of that imperfect documentation and my equally imperfect memory.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Luscious, observant, sincere.

How did you come up with this new painting idea of ‘Not to Put Too Fine a Point On It‘? Is there any story behind this work?

The works included are all extremely recent and still something I am working out. They are two different visual approaches exploring the power of myth and the creation of our own personal mythologies. My parents moved to America from England in the 80’s. Photographs were mailed back and forth between family members to stand in for the memories we were absent for. The cowboy image is from one of these photographs; the original memory of which no one can recall. The knife cutting cake is from an old british tabloid. The tabloids are a para-reality the same as family photographs or images in our phones. Through painting I am able to give weight and importance to the mundane or the in between moments that construct our reality.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?

I am usually somewhere in the middle. I have to have a pretty clear picture in my head of the desired result, but I don’t do a lot of preliminary sketching. If I know exactly how a painting will look I lose interest. Finding that balance between thought and intuition is what I am always striving for in the studio.

Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?

The archive and our universal obsession with documentation. I am interested in how images supplant our memories; we remember our earliest birthdays because we saw the home videos. In an age of social media I am interested in how we curate our lived experiences and for whom.

Large or small scale canvases dilemma; are there any kind of standards that drive you to decide which surface length is better fitted for your final painting visualisations?

My paintings tend to be large scale. Working big when the reference image is small, such as a photograph, is where I get to fill in the missing details creating the atmosphere unique to the painting.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

I love reading and get most of my inspiration from authors and musicians. Zadie Smith, Hervé Guibert, Kurt Vonnegut, Stendhal, and Edith Wharton are general favorites.

A few of my favorite painters currently; Brittney Leeanne Williams, Bendt Eyckermans, Doron Langberg, Issy Wood.

Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?

I find it hard to return to rework a painting once the initial energy is given to it. My paintings capture the specific mood I am in and it is hard to recreate that.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

I am part of an artist collective, Goodyear Arts. Me and about 20 other artists working in all different mediums each have our own studio spaces in a large, defunct Ford Model T factory. It is a really fun and creative working environment, and the space is beautiful with a lot of natural light.

What does your mum think about your art?

Haha she has a really good attitude about it. It is funny because I paint her often and without any warning so she has definitely been surprised a few times. She is an artist herself and so she has always been very supportive of my painting career.

Which exhibition did you visit last?

Summer Wheat did a large, permanent window installation at the Mint Museum along with a solo show, Lather, Rinse, Repeat at SOCO Gallery in November. The saturated colors of the windows and their massive scale was awe inspiring.

Which are your plans for the near future?

This week I just finished preparing my work for the Bennet Prize exhibition as one of the 10 finalists. This show will start at the Muskegon Museum of Art and travel to 4 other states over the next two years. I am looking forward to playing in the studio and making new work.

Additional Paintings

Holly Keogh, Lonesome on the Trail, 2020, Acrylic ink on canvas, 7’ x 7’
Holly Keogh, David Hockney’s Diaries, 2020, Oil on canvas, 4’ x 4’
Holly Keogh, The Current Was Strong, 2020, Acrylic ink on canvas, 7’ x 7’



All images are courtesy of the artist

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