Tony O’Keefe: ‘The Life of Normals’
Exhibitions Gallery, 20A Brandon Street, Wellington CBD
Phone (04) 499 6356 or Ron 021 0622072
Tony O’Keefe’s latest series is essentially a study of the perpendicular. The Life of Normals looks at the values, forms and rituals that derive from the special distinction of being upright.
Presented as a set of evocative vertical tableaux the collection balances figurative and abstract elements to portray apparently familiar events. Knowing that the viewer will inevitably see themselves in these scenes
O’Keefe introduces ambiguous and disruptive volumes which challenge us to rethink this perception. Is every tower necessarily an abode? Is that really just a briefcase?
In the course of the design and creation of each artwork O’Keefe simultaneously develops a complex milieu of ideas, symbols and references. This narrative is continuously drawn back into the sculpture influencing its final expression. “I regard the completed sculpture and its syndetic story as the same piece of art,” says O’Keefe. His art frequently alludes to Christian tradition, historical events, social and ideological commentary.
Working from his zero waste studio on an organic estate near Queenstown, O’Keefe enjoys both the company of farm animals and the intensely private world of arc welding. Describing his medium of steel as
obstinate’ he wrests remarkable character from the material. The apparent conformity of his population hides the fact that each figure is unique. Created individually at the artist’s hand by the violent and random
forces of high voltage and molten steel.
Insisting that art is a mutual, multi-sensory experience O’Keefe invites people to enjoy the tactile dimensions to his sculpture and says that, unlike most exhibitions, the message here is: “Please Touch the Art”.