Thursday, 1 March 2018

It's our first Works Without Walls blog post, and this week we're talking to Ewan Keenan. Ewan is currently studying painting at Camberwell and is in his second year. His work is chaotic with scrawling letters, thickly applied paint and distored figures. From supreme logos, McDonalds and Adidas tracksuits, Ewan's work is infused with dark humour, and a sense of culture satire.  It's works like The Modernistic Lady, where a re-imaged Maharashtrian Lady (by Raja Ravi) holds aloft a Mcdonalds happy meal, in a burberry check skirt and Supreme t-shirt, that speak more directly politically, challenging the viewer to re-think our perceptions of pop culture. 

Ewan loves a good sing in the shower, and occasionally DJs too. He also runs an art collective called  Empty Set that puts on experimental exhibition nights combining visual art with DJ sets. We had a chat with Ewan about the Empty Set project, his methods of working and living in London. 

left: 'The Modernistic Lady', acrylic & oil pastel.  // right: 'badly drawn Jesus up to no good', oil pastel on paper.

Hi Ewan! When did you start creating art?
When I had basic knowledge of the world, politics and life I guess, so probably early teens. I was always creative when I was younger than that though

When you work do you have a specific method or do you wait organically for inspiration to come? 
My method of working normally stems from doing a lot of small works on paper when I have run out of ideas. This then gives me a starting point for a painting or a series of paintings. Although I use one of my smaller pieces as a reference, once I begin working on the painting, it completely changes as new ideas pop into my head.

Would you say you try and get specific themes across in your work?
Yes, sometimes there is a theme, sometimes there isn’t. A lot start out with no theme and then when I start creating them, they begin to have a theme and mean something. A lot of my works are political and challenging society in some way. Others are just done for the audience to make what they want of it.

We've noticed that your work seems to satire street culture and/or pop culture a lot - would you agree with this? Can you explain this at all?
There is certainly a sense of foolishness and irony in my works. It also certainly satires on those two things. You’ll notice a lot of brands in my works. I guess this is just [my interpretation of] the modern world around me. 

Yes, that's something we see a lot in your work. Who are your favourite artists? Do you try to reflect that influence in your own work?
Well, there are so many great artists that inspire me but currently I have been fascinated with Dale Lewis and the story behind his paintings.

Dale Lewis, 'Deep Fat Fryer', Oil, acrylic, spray paint on canvas. You can see more of his work here

What do you like about living in London? Do you find it a creatively stimulating place?
[The best thing is that] I can wake up some days and know I always have new exhibitions of new artists to see. Most of which are completely free!

One of our favourite pieces of yours is 'ruin your life jeans' - do you hope to make more pieces like this or do you think you will mainly focus on working with oil pastel?
That was a piece I did last year for our first @emptyset_ exhibition. Yes, I don’t always just do paintings. The last two @emptyset_ nights we did, I did video art.

The first video was a piece titled ‘Social Drinking’ and it was a video of me sat on a sofa for four hours without any distractions whatsoever (no phone, no contact with people), just me, alcohol and cigarettes. I ended up passing out for the last two hours and actually was sick into a bag.

It was my first performance piece and was all about pushing boundaries and the problems around alcoholism and putting myself in that experience for four hours. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I used it for our Empty Set night at Corsica studios where we had lots of visual art and it was projected on the wall opposite the bar.

The video lasted as long as the night itself which was good because every time people went to get a drink at the bar, they would see the video of me and it would be at a different stage. It was the contrast between people socially drinking on the night and then the video of me drinking by myself, hence the title.

Tell us a little more about Empty Set?
Yes, you’re probably wondering why I keep going on about this @emptyset_ thing. It’s basically a few of us putting on ‘experimental nights’ once in a while. They tend to focus on music and art so they are I guess a mixture of exhibition and club night. 

We have done two nights at Corsica Studios which is a club in Elephant & Castle. We have also done a couple other nights in other venues. Give the Instagram a follow though as you’ll get a better idea for what it is all about that way and keep up to date with future events

You can find out more about Ewan here, and about Empty Set here.
Ewan is also selling one of his pieces on AUC ART here.

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