Erin O’Keefe at Gallery Jones

Another photographer who is featured during the month long Capture Photography Festival here in Vancouver is Erin O’Keefe. Her exhibition Things as They Are is on exhibit at the Gallery Jones.

I was first introduced to Erin O’Keefe’s work while I was doing the The Art of Photography module. O’Keefe is a visual artist based in New York and New Brunswick, Canada and has a background in architecture. This background in architecture informs a lot of her work which has to do with spatial perception.

Erin O'Keefe - Things as they are | The Flatness Series #30 & The Flatness Series #12
Erin O’Keefe – Things as they are | The Flatness Series #30 & The Flatness Series #12

All her work is very colourful and vibrant, exuding a cheerful atmosphere. One can’t walk away from her work without feeling lighter in spirit and refreshed from the rich vibrancy.

In her Flatness Series (see above) she builds a still life from painted plywood boards, photographic prints of Photoshop gradient patterns and photographs. O’Keefe states:

I am interested in the tension between the compressed space of the image and the visual clues that allude to the dimensionality of the still life. The camera is the agent of uncertainty that invites seeing as both an intimate and critical exercise.

(Gallery Jones, 2016)

One is impelled to look deeply at her work, trying to figure out how she has created these still lifes. Her work consists of strong geometric shapes, vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines and curves which all contribute towards the dynamics of each photograph. In Flatness Series #30 our eye is tricked into thinking that the photograph could very well just be paper shapes laid down flat on a surface, until we see the shadow of the diagonally placed dowel stick. It is the shadow that gives the photograph its dimensionality and changes our perceptions.

She goes even further in her illusory effects in the Natural Disasters series. In this series she also makes use of pipe cleaners, tape, mirrors, string and fabric.

Erin O'Keefe - Natural Disasters - Bullseye
Erin O’Keefe – Natural Disasters – Bullseye

The mise-en-scene is elaborately constructed, almost like a stage set. Again dimensionality is achieved through shadows, but also in the way the string intersects the various components in the frame. Is it passing behind the object or through it? In a way the photo above makes me think back to my childhood when children would raid their mothers’ cupboards for sheets and other paraphernalia and build a fort in the back yard, or living room if the weather was bad. There is definitely a sense of joie de vivre in O’Keefe’s work. For me it’s the kind of abstract work that one will not easily tire from. Every time one looks at the photograph something else is revealed.

Reference List

Gallery Jones. (2016) Erin O’Keefe | Things as they are. Vancouver. Gallery Jones.

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