Kerlin Gallery is delighted to announce An Open Room, an exhibition of William McKeown’s paintings and works on paper from the last decade of his life.
William McKeown’s art was driven by a lifelong pursuit of openness and a belief in the primacy of feeling. His paintings act like windows into the expansiveness beyond, offering liberation from constraint, or quite simply a breath of air, and a point of connection with the world. In the twelve years since his untimely passing, the artist’s work has continued to resonate with new audiences worldwide, and the underlying quest of his work – for hope, freedom, connection, happiness, dancing, and oneness with nature – remains as vital as ever.
William McKeown’s oil paintings use subtle gradations of tone to create moments of exquisite beauty, heightened by a tension between freedom and containment. The works in An Open Room range from a clear sky blue through the subtle gradients of twilight into bolder, more contrastive works and finally into more sombre tones of grey and black. These late paintings often feature painted borders that appear irregular, broken, or perhaps permeable or ‘open.’ In one instance, the perimeter encloses only three sides – “a post-and-lintel framing of a luminous field beyond”, suggests Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith in a newly commissioned text.
An Open Room also includes a number of watercolour works on paper – “each an exquisite modulation of colour and light within its tremulously delineated rectangular enclosure” (Mac Giolla Léith). They include several Hope drawings, in which a mesmerising horizon-like glow radiates across the page, and a series of works titled Freedom Drawing – Starlings, in which tiny orbs float upwards like birds in flight. As with the oil paintings, these works demonstrate McKeown’s attentive observation of the natural world – intended not as a direct representation but as an expression of how nature can make us feel, how the sky is also our breath, and a reminder of our proximity to the infinite.
“There are two types of art – open and closed.
Art which is open accepts without judgement, is expanding, positive and life-enhancing.”
William McKeown (1962–2011)
The exhibition coincides with the publication of In an Open Room, a comprehensive monograph of McKeown’s work featuring illuminating texts from Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, Isabel Nolan, John Hutchinson, Declan Long, and the artist himself. The book chronicles 15 years of McKeown’s output, as well as documentation of his posthumous exhibitions in locations including Inverleith House; Loewe; the Dallas Museum of Art; Château La Coste, and CCS Bard.