So its been 6 months since I left Iceland. It’s funny how one door opens when one has closed. The time I spent there has affected me profoundly on many levels. At the time I left I was utterly heart-broken. Time heals, and so does meeting another handsome, charming man whom I hope I have a long and happy future with. A twist in the story I never saw coming. Perhaps the Viking was more sage than I realised.
One of the greatest departures on my return has been my painting style, from layered gently applied paint surfaces, to loose gestural alla-prima surfaces. I had envisaged a self indulgent show of dark, brooding wildly sad and lonely landscapes… so I could wallow in self pity. Luckily that isn’t quite my style, and after starting (and never finishing) my first dark & stormy; I started painting a large wild purple coloured landscape. I realised my connection to Iceland wasn’t one of misery- but joy, elation, amazement and every other adjective that describes rapture. And so my fine haired sable brushes were shelved, and armed with some lovely big bristle brushes I used body and soul (I know I sound a little corny ) to make this series of brightly coloured, bold, energetic paintings, that to me engage with the act of painting as well as the physicality of the landscape which I fell in love with. Below is a short film by the talented James McVicker, where after a long night in the studio, listening to my favourite Icelandic tunes and painting I talk about how I arrived at this point.
My exhibition opens next week at Liverpool Street Gallery here in Sydney, the work will be hung tomorrow and these huge colourful vistas will be ready to be seen in the flesh. So I guess this really is closure and the end of a chapter, but there is soo much more adventure out there and my next wild escapade is already in the pipeline, and hopefully in the company of my handsome German.
Liverpool Street Gallery is proud to present Anwen Keeling’s newest body of work Wonderland.
This exhibition marks a dramatic departure from Keeling’s previous practice. Known for a deft portrait and narrative based paintings these personal and joyous landscapes embody a distinct break from the past. A new sense of freedom, a delicious colour palette and wonderful painterly skills combine to celebrate a new vision.
This new body of work emerged following a recent residency (and exhibition) in Iceland. The extreme nature of the Icelandic climate mixed with the warmth and generosity of the Icelandic people come together in these paintings to create a radical vision in Lapis Lazuli Blue, Cobalt Violet and Rose Madder.
“The painting series “Wonderland” is the result of a 5 month stint in Iceland. I immersed myself in this artic existence. My time was filled with adventures; grand vistas; adrenalin & amazement.
There is a rawness and a honesty about life in Iceland which I loved; and not just because of the ever present molten bedrock mountains pushing skyward, sometimes raw and exposed, other times covered in a thick snowy white shroud. The landscape had a profound effect on me, I was constantly floored by its beauty, it effects you almost at a cellular level, your whole body is electrified from the vast powerful beauty, sometimes you even feel like your have been punched in the guts, winded by its magnificence.
The landscape and its monumentality is echoed within the strength and resilience of the Icelandic people, there is almost a primordial streak that runs deep within the Icelandic psyche. Despite such a small population of 330,000 and their quirky belief in the realms of elves and trolls they are a strong people, educated, well versed in foreign affairs, well travelled and fiercely proud of their country. In summer the sun stays high till after midnight, and in winter there is only daylight for 4 hours. The small population who live within this land of Fire & Ice is faced with the ever-present possibility of catastrophic volcanic activity, earthquakes and floods. The Glaciers started coming and going around three million years ago, even before the global ice ages began. These days they’re shrinking fast but still cover the tallest volcanoes. When a fjall erupts under a jökull, it produces a jökulhlaup—a torrent of meltwater and ice that races to the sea, knocking out bridges and flooding farms, which soon after may be buried in ash. Through necessity Icelandic people have evolved to be strong individuals who unite as whole communities & family units for celebration and adversity. I was lucky enough to be included in a number of local events and activities. The atmosphere was jubilant when I joined the locals, in that unique way where people are working together towards a common goal. There is an honesty in the Icelandic way of life – a true and grounded existence. My paintings attempt to capture the vast rugged beauty of this wonderful land in deep winter, at a time when the sun just arced above the horizon, fleetingly filling the sky and landscape with iridescent colour.”
– Anwen Keeling September 2016