For his fourth exhibition at Matt’s Gallery, Ian McKeever is exhibiting a selection from two recent series, Eagduru and Against Architecture (both 2012-13), which combine painting and photography. Exceptionally, for an artist who emerged in the 1970s within the context of British Conceptual art – a movement which rejected painting – McKeever's early work was characterised by a synthesis of abstract painting and analogue photography, juxtaposed as relative means of articulating an experience of the remote landscapes he would venture into on field trips.
At the end of the 1980s, he abandoned the photographic component from his painting, and it was not until a decade ago, in Hartgrove Photographs (2007–10) – a series of intimate, high-contrast photographs of the interior of McKeever's home in Dorset – that it began to reappear. The works presented here contain similar, interior images. In Eagduru, a photographic print and a canvas are adhered to separate but abutting plywood panels, returning to McKeever's earlier use of the diptych form as a dialectical device. Against Architecture breaks up the panels into puzzles of smaller blocks, and further erodes the decipherability of the images. Gradations of oil stain and photographic grain jar against brilliantly coloured monochrome inserts.
A series of raw plasterboard panels have been erected throughout the gallery, with manufacturer's markings left on the rear. The works are hung on both sides of the temporary walls, as well as on the undecorated walls of the gallery, drawing the viewer through a maze that activates the gallery space. The various, more or less provisional surfaces and planes, on which the works are hung, reflect those of the works themselves. The preposition in the title of the exhibition – Against Architecture – suggests both proximity to its noun and variance with it. A claim to pictoriality is challenged, as much by the atomised formal structures McKeever adopts in the works themselves, as by the makeshift structures he hangs them on. The installation is an exploration of how the fragility of pictorial illusion subsists amid a world of contingencies. In a contemporary visual culture in which images come cheap, the effect is to reestablish our sense of them as fugitive, mysterious and hard-won.
All works courtesy of the artist and Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Copenhagen.
This exhibition is kindly supported by Arts Council England.