Ash Keating’s large-scale abstract murals evoke the works of Mark Rothko’s experiments in colour and Jackson Pollock’s experiments in movement. However, he isn’t really like either of those giants, but a completely different beast creating work that is difficult to categorise, but instantly recognisable.
We’ll get onto how it looks in a bit, but what must first be established is how it is created. His weapon of choice is the fire extinguisher, a tool usually not associated with art, although not entirely alien to it either. The use of a fire extinguisher brings to mind a few things. It’s chaotic. Difficult to control. It’s something very physical. In other words, it’s explosive.
All of these aspects of the extinguisher manifest in the work itself. They become a part of it. A part of its philosophy and execution. Keating, the Melbourne-born abstract artist creates meditative pieces in this unorthodox manner, blasting large quantities of colour onto vast surfaces. There is a sense of dissonance in how its made and how we interpret it. Bursting with a sense of dynamism, this is slow-art, to be consumed in a contemplative manner.
Retaining much of the force of those aforementioned - Rothko and Pollock - his paintings began to develop a texture more recently, something the artist has likened to aerial views of landscapes, a concept he has enjoyed experimenting with, coinciding with his deep reflections on the iconography of colour.
Although these are imaginative landscapes, Keating creates them with a true desire to impact his audience, to make them feel something real. Largely open and free of geometry, Keating’s painting invite reflection, establishing a sense of atmosphere within a space:
“I am positioning a body of work as a means to reflect change, like the seasons, like the way we as a society have endured significant change over the course of this past year and equally as individuals. I hope these works will be able to provide a space for the viewer to connect with themselves, physically and metaphysically,” the artist said.
Just as we lie on our backs and look at the clouds, so too can we stand on our own two feet and stare at the myriad formations in Keating’s paintings. Influenced by youthful flights on Cessnas, mesmerized by the shifting landscape below, the Aussie paints from above - linen stretched flat on the floor, building the landscape from a similar perspective. By binding various materials with the paint and painting, the artist is able to build topographic pieces, with slight variations depending on their light and viewing point. Like the process, the art is alive.
Continuing with the innovative work of a distinctive lineage of creators who have searched for artistic truth through experimentation, Keating’s indoor and outdoor works are a pause for thought in our busy world, unique formations amongst cold concrete walls and sterile white galleries that we enjoy spending time with.
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