Liminal Series

John Keys draws his inspiration from both an internal and external landscape. He unearths the primordial and iconographic scarring of human existence by creating indexical inscriptions derived from his own experience of distinctive physical environments as well as the geography of his own psyche.

The temporal and ephemeral threads that flow through the work make reference to the physical act required to mark the substrate and the symbolic passage of time, making a universal as well as subjective statement about our existence on, in and beyond the earth.

There is however, a fine and delicate tension that exists between the binary opposition of the temporal and transcendental, giving rise to a fragile and ephemeral state of suspended animation; time and self held and contained within a terrestrial receptacle.

A literal sense of the earth prevails through the terrigenous nature of the pigments, which form a North African palette of ochres and umbers, but also through the particularly visceral and gestural form of mark making employed. Just as human beings leave their scar upon the landscape, the painter leaves behind an indexical inscription upon the substrate.

While a binary opposition may exist within the work, a fusion of another kind of opposition is evident, manifesting itself through the transgression of the liminal border between masculine and feminine.

While there is a strong presence of masculine symbolism in the horns of the bull, that same symbolism simultaneously becomes a symbol of nurture and containment – the vessel; the universal signature of the maternal. John has been influenced by the iconography of Egyptian and Minoan cultures, in particular the Egyptian goddess Metit-Weret, and the Minoan altars, the former possessing horns and the latter shaped like horns, a metaphorical link between the human and spirit world.

It is this kind of iconography that continues to emerge and reveal itself time and time again.

One of John’s early childhood influences was a picture of the Lascaux cave paintings; one can see how such imagery engrained itself upon his sensibility, enabling the development of a personal code. The work is phenomenological in essence, giving rise to a personal archaeology.

Rachel Hindely 2008