Around the turn of the millennium William McKeown moved to the Old Convent Lismore to make a new body of work. What began as a short residency eventually became 18 months as McKeown felt inspired by the Convent and the Lismore landscape. The paintings made during this period in Lismore became the core of his first major solo exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin in 2001.
During this time McKeown’s practice focused on representations of the morning sky, in particular the ever changing light. Whilst these works often appear monochromatic or abstract, McKeown was more concerned with creating painting that reflected nature and the subtleties of the emerging daylight. His practice employed a refined use of tone, colour and light that was austere, yet produced moments of exquisite beauty and bliss. He wanted the viewer to look beyond the surface and to consider nature as infinite, poetic, expansive and evocative.
It was also during his time that he began to explore the possibilities of creating rooms to exhibit his painting, referencing the architecture where the paintings were made. These rooms became a prominent part of his practice from his exhibition at Project Arts Centre, Dublin in 2003 to his exhibition at Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art in 2010.
In 2004 McKeown was invited to be one of the artists exhibiting at the Northern Ireland Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale. He returned to the Convent for the six months prior to the exhibition to create a new series of paintings, as he felt the solitary working conditions and the radiant light in Lismore were necessary at this time.
The paintings in this exhibition are drawn from the time he spent in Lismore, and this is the first occasion that they have been shown together.
William McKeown was born in Tyrone in 1962 and died in Edinburgh in 2011. Solo exhibitions include Inverleith House, Edinburgh 2012; Kerlin Gallery 1999, 2002 and 2012; Douglas Hyde Gallery Dublin 2001; Ormeau Baths Gallery Belfast 2002 and 2010, Project Arts Centre Dublin, 2003, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2008 and the Golden Bough project at the Dublin City Gallery, Hugh Lane, 2011. Two Person exhibitions include ‘Traces of Light’ with Felix Gonzales Torres, Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art, 2010, and ‘Pool’ with Dorothy Cross, Kerlin Gallery, 2010. Group exhibitions include Venice Biennale, 2005, representing N. Ireland, ‘A Dream of Discipline,’ Douglas Hyde Gallery, 2006 and ‘Collecting the New’, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2010. His work is represented in many private and public collections in Europe, the UK and Ireland.
On 21st June 2013, Declan Long (critic, academic and 2013 Turner Prize judge) will lead a discussion on the work and legacy of William McKeown. Further details to be announced in due course.