What lies behind: Sam Keogh’s multimedia art is a riot of clashing ideas
Sam Keogh Let’s take control of our lives
hen Sam Keogh, from Ashford, Co Wicklow, went on a school trip to see an exhibition by Cathy Wilkes at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, he was struck by the difficult artwork – but he was even more intrigued by the reaction of his classmates.
“These alpha-jocks were annoyed to have to watch this stuff – and the fact that they found it confronting and boring turned me on.”
Keogh chose art, studied animation at IADT, and “spent hours making the Pink Panther dive off a diving board, Winnie the Pooh jump off a pot of honey. Exhausting work, but it taught me how to draw over time, an incredibly abstract skill to learn.
Preferring art to animation, he transferred to NCAD, studied painting and sculpture, and found an MFA at Goldsmiths that was “transformative”. There, Maria Fusco taught artistic writing. “Students were forced to think of writing as a means of making contemporary art.”
Keogh found that as a multimedia artist, “reading, writing and experimenting with materials in the studio, over time” became “notes, objects, drawings” that “accumulate in a body of material”.
Keogh’s work includes a gaelscoil installation of Greystones. He wants to “dig up the ground on which the school was built”, so he invites the students “to imagine what they are standing on, a ground that is not necessarily solid, inert, permanent and concrete. foundation of a chauvinistic nationalism – but a soil that is a mess of pipes, train tunnels, buried treasures, old computers, foxes, worms, badgers, mushrooms and crystals. The ground as both physical and imaginary place of constant flux, change, life, death and history.
Keogh’s students drew what they imagined to be under the school hall and he ‘pastes’ their images ‘into a giant motley floor work’.
Students loved it, teachers were reluctant, fearing it would look messy and distracting. “Children are more open to ideas and more willing to experiment and play.”
Keogh has had solo exhibitions in Canada, China, the Netherlands, France, Germany and England.
Video of the day
But for his new show, he has created four large collages, “a sort of menagerie of flora, fauna, food and objects that relate to pleasure or the body in some way”, a solitary ceramic figure life-size, a 21-minute soundscape and Let’s take control of our livesan acrylic, pencil, ink, gold leaf on acid-free drawing vellum.
For the soundscape, Keogh wrote and spoke an intriguing and gripping account of transporting the contents of the new show in a suitcase through Stanstead. At the “Nothing to Declare” lane, Keogh is arrested and questioned by three officers who, in a surreal twist, become a unicorn, a cartoon clock, and a roast pig. You must hear it. So believe it.
Medieval tapestry, Bruegel, and writers Fred Moten, Stefano Harney, TJ Clark on ‘The Land of Cockaigne’, Jodi Dean, McKenzie Wark, Gavin Mueller, Avery Gordon, Kristin Ross inspire this recent work.
Keogh, rejecting capitalism and exploitations, said “I never wanted a job, but I have a job, I teach at an art school in London.”
The 35-year-old is very grateful to the Irish Arts Council for giving him “time away from paid work, to experiment and play – vital to making art”.
This image, referencing the slogan of a thousand black and white studio posters, reads: ‘I didn’t go to work today…I don’t think I’ll go tomorrow. Let’s take control of our lives and live for pleasure not pain. Sounds good.
“Sated Soldier, Sated Peasant, Sated Scribe” is on view at Kerlin Gallery until February 19. samkeogh.net or on Instagram @keogh.sam
On the bill: two to see
27 European artists
Organized by the European Investment Bank Art Collection, Belonging presents 82 artists from the 27 EU countries.
Works by Isobel Nolan, Anish Kapoor, Paula Rego, Sean Scully, Tony Cragg, Jannis Kounellis and others can be seen in eight different locations, including the Hunt Museum, Mary Immaculate College, the sailors’ house, the Sainte-Marie cathedral and the Plassey house. .
“Belong” until April 24
Clonmel-based John Kennedy explores isolation, abandonment and estrangement. His new paintings focus on the stretches of land that exist in the margins, those places that are misunderstood, overlooked or ignored by the conventional landscape enthusiast.
Viewers of Kennedy’s work experience a silence and a sense of distance, of being outside and looking within.
‘Edgelands’ is at the South Tipperary Arts Center in Clonmel until February 19