Take our hand and let’s plunge in to the ethereal world of Craig Keenan – the latest artist to join the Enter Gallery stable. Keenan’s artworks, characterised by rich swathes of cobalt blue, are haunting fantasies, almost poetic in their simplicity. Today we’re revealing a little more about this exciting artist, and the interesting methods used to create his dreamy artworks…
The Craig Keenan Blueprint
Craig Keenan is a London-based multi-disciplinary printmaker who specialises in creating cyanotypes - a method once aptly-named ‘blueprinting’. This photographic process is over 170 years old and interestingly, was discovered by Sir John Herschel – the son of the chap who discovered the planet, Uranus.
If you’re looking to whip up a cyanotype, the first step in the process is to mix together equal parts ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Next, you paint these onto any surface made from natural materials and expose this surface to light. It’s during this exposure that the rich deep blue emerges. Keenan explains that it was this combination of art, science and photography that drew him to this process:
‘I absolutely love the depth and richness of colour that the cyanotype process produces, as well as the gestural brush strokes and mark making. The fact that cyanotypes sit somewhere between painting, photography and printmaking is why I love the process. It’s a great way for me to engage with digital and analogue processes.’
What does this process look like?
It’s all very well describing the science, but what does the act of creation actually look like for Craig Keenan? Here he explains what steps are involved in creating his artworks…
‘After I have composed my image, usually on photoshop, but sometimes via collage, I’ll get the image printed as a negative onto acetate. Meanwhile, I will mix the light sensitive solution then apply it to the substrate, usually with a sponge brush. That will dry for 24 hours then I will either expose it out in the sunshine, or for more control I’ll use an exposure unit. Then I will develop, stop, and fix the image with water and wait for it to dry. I’ll usually weigh down the prints for a period of time to flatten them out as they get a bit unruly after all that saturation and drying.’
Floating in the blue
It’s clear that the nature of the cyanotype process imposes certain limits on what can be created. For some artists, this may feel restrictive. Not Keenan. For him, the limits are one of the things he enjoys the most:
‘I enjoy constraints within creativity – a blank canvas and infinite possibility can be a daunting prospect, so being tied to say, a specific colour, is actually quite freeing.’
While the process has its limits, the unpredictability of the medium is enough to keep him constantly engaged and challenged. For Keenan, mastering the form and creating more dreamlike environments in which his figures can play is just part of the fun.
Freedom in restriction
It’s apparent that self-imposed boundaries crop up regularly in Keenan’s artistry. Sticking to one colour palette and not dwelling on theme allows him to focus on the act of creation rather than the details that surround the process. Speaking about his decision not to name his works, he explains:
‘I tend to avoid throwing out too much in the way of meaning behind my work, I think the subjectivity of what makes someone connect with a piece or love it, or hate it, is where the joy resides in art. I prefer not to offer meaning in my pieces but rather have them sit as satisfying or attractive compositions - with the audience projecting their own meaning onto things.’
Alongside creating cyanotypes, photography is central to Keenan’s work. This is where he started on his journey as an artist, inspired to pick up a camera by the photographic work of Andy Warhol:
‘The first instance I can think of is being about 13 or 14 and buying some disposable cameras so I could document hanging out with my friends. The excitement of taking an undeveloped camera to the shop and having to wait to see the results was a big part of the attraction, that and the notion of the happy accident you get through analogue methods. Very often my favourite shots were the wonky ones, the ones with “bad composition” or just something a little off about them. Then I’d start to take pictures in a more abstract way that would make the viewer question what they were seeing.’
We’re delighted that Keenan's artistic journey led him to Enter Gallery. You can peruse his artworks here.