11.04 – 19.05.2019
There is no such thing as a crime of passion, only a crime of possession.
Caught in a liminal loop of a drowned death. Tendrils of wisteria hang suspended overhead, dangling in a faint spring breeze. A peacefully still enclosed courtyard echoes with the sounds of chirping birds and disconcerting murmur. In the company of water lilies, reclined in pool of midnight blue, Ophelia is indeed swimming with the fishes. Both tranquil and deadly Ophelia Forever is a contemporary interpretation of a Shakespearian tale. Driven mad by grief in an instance of paternal demise and rejection of a lover, in the original iteration of Hamlet, Queen Gertrude describes how the young woman fell into the river while picking flowers and slowly drowned. Keck draws on this fictional narrative, taking inspiration from Sir John Everett Millais’ pre-Raphaelite painting Ophelia (1852) and reimagined in the digital medium of Virtual Reality. Situated in the TMRW Gallery Keck employs her distinct bold colour palette in collaboration with Evan Greenwood’s programming skills and a soundscape by Jason Sutherland to bring this classic tragedy to life.
The adjacent Circa Gallery houses Keck’s latest offering, ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’. As the title suggests, the exhibition is a playful take on a sinister sentiment. Cocooned in the royal blue underbelly of the exhibition space, her paintings provide an immersive study on mortality. The flattened forms are clearly informed by her multi-disciplinary practice and experience in print-making. In a Skype interview, Keck noted her insatiable appetite for experimenting with new media – specifically enjoying the moments that require working within limitations and relinquishing control. Central to her practice is a lighthearted and inquisitive approach to concerns around contemporary culture. The latest of which explores the consumption of crimes of passion in the field of entertainment.
Saturated tone is presented with a morbid twist. In each painting depictions of figures are almost enveloped by pattern. The subjects are largely women with the sole exception of the masculine form featured in To Die For, positioned to indicate that, crimes of passion can go both ways. Lit from above, strategic lilac shadows are used to create a sense of depth while swathes of decorative motifs provide movement.
Overtones of luxury appear throughout the bold renderings. Beneath the veneer of opulence is horror – regardless of class, death comes for us all. The figures in the staged crimes have a resting quality and appear to be in the early stages of death before the onset of rigour mortis. Keck’s use of colour masks demise through ambiguity – making it seem less visceral. However, many of the titles act as entry points to the narrative. The artist interrogates commonly used phrases that seem to present death in a positive or glamourous light –the title of the show included.
Keck’s imagining is more considered than flippant – the show is in part a response to the global surge in appetite for True Crime. Crime as entertainment raises questions about a culture of desensitization. However, this wave of interest is somewhat surprisingly being pioneered by women. A survey last year indicated that women are far more likely to be interested in this genre than men. This may be accounted for by several complex and interconnected motivations.
In the context of domestic abuse and other gender-based violence, women may enjoy watching crime as a form of escapism or have a desire to understand why people feel moved to commit such crimes. Guilty pleasure or fact-finding mission – it could also be both simultaneously. A third reason relates to the catharsis of solidarity and conversation around trauma facilitated by digital space. Keck too is an avid listened of the podcasts Wine & Crime and My Favorite Murder – both hosted exclusively by women – for drawing inspiration for the grisly tales in her work. Underpinned by a kind of voyeurism and morbid fascination, she invites the viewer to bear witness to the fatality of her subjects. In turn, Keck makes us complicit to these depictions of violence.