Keith’s casts of angels, fools, child-adults and voyagers are innocents adrift in a world we view with a sense of wonder, because he has the artist’s gift of enabling us see it as they do. While their bodies are often presented as frail and schematic, their faces are beautiful and brimming with humanity, because he knows where to invest telling detail and how to pare away the extraneous, thus suggesting complex ideas through deceptive simplicity of form. His tenderness for his creations lodges in them, reaches out to the viewer and catches like a sob in the chest, because we feel for them and fear for them in equal measure, these fragile participants in an ancient mystery.
Keith and I share a love of the Romanesque. We’ve never discussed this but I know it to be true because I’ve long recognised it in his drawings and paintings. (Most significantly in his wood-cut decorations for the Old Stile Press edition of ‘White Voices’ by Marcel Schwob, translated by Malcolm Parr.)
We’ve both made images that reference the Annunciation and the Hortus Conclusus, and we both obsessively re-examine our chosen themes because by so doing we hope one day to understand them well enough to make something worth looking at. So it wasn’t entirely a surprise when I saw the airborne ‘visitors’ (the artist’s description) and rapturous witnesses that have so long absorbed him, though the new plastic idiom of his expression together with his manipulation of the space the figures inhabit, is a revelation.
Flushes of pink warm their skins. They are both infant-like and as ancient as the sphinx, a clever trick on the artist’s part, because whatever lies behind their expressions must forever mystify and elude us. (An advantage to the artist, as Leonardo well knew!) The subtleties of meaning skilfully conjured in tissue paper and the faintest stains of pigment draw us closer to examine and to speculate as we bathe in reflected radiance. Humankind will forever be drawn to the face, where all questions and answers must be sought, if not always found.
Mission Gallery has been transformed by the artist. Its geometry and light will never seem quite the same again, filled as it has been with shining presences and the flight-paths of angels. I can’t help but feel that Keith’s work will remain long after the exhibition has gone, the memories of it imprinted on the very air and walls of the space.
Clive Hicks-Jenkins, 2011