William McKeown made paintings, drawings, prints and installations that captured the openness and transcendent power of nature. Guided by a belief in the primacy of feeling, his paintings took on the guise of objective minimalism and the monochrome, but presented us with so much more: nature as something real, tangible, all around us, to be touched and felt. Each painting is slightly off-square, undermining the perfection of geometry, and scaled roughly to the size of the human chest, as if mirroring the capacity of our lungs to breathe in air. Sometimes presented in ‘room installations’, wooden structures with wallpaper, windows and artificial light that mimic a clinical setting, his works act as windows out onto the world – an escape from the repression and mundanity of everyday life and into the lightness and expansiveness of the sky, using subtle gradations of tone to create moments of exquisite beauty and bliss. Frequently using titles such as ‘Hope’ and ‘Freedom’, McKeown steered our attention to the air around us, capturing the feeling of our emergence into light and reminding us of our proximity to the infinite.
William McKeown was born in Tyrone, 1962, and was living and working in Edinburgh at the time of his death on October 25, 2011.
William McKeown’s work has been exhibited at the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, NY; The Drawing Centre, New York; BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh and National Gallery of Ireland. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Dallas Museum of Art; LOEWE Design District Store, Miami; Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh; mima, Middlesbrough; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore and Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. In 2005, he represented Northern Ireland in the 51st Venice Biennale.