Ash Keating makes enormous paintings, sometimes 20-metres tall. His practice is intensely physical and almost performative – an exploration of colour, movement, paint, water, air and gravity. The resulting works are a feat of logistics as much as they are an artistic expression.
This month, Ash exhibits ‘Gravity System Response‘, a collection of 20 vast, vibrant paintings on linen, created in the artist’s Brunswick studio.
Ash Keating is obsessive. The Brunswick based artist has a unique practice which usually involves filling recycled fire extinguishers with huge quantities of paint, and using these as a means to create immense, vibrant wall murals up to 20-metres high. You might have seen his work as part of Melbourne Now in 2013, or more recently, at The Victorian College of the Arts for Sugar Mountain festival in 2016 (well worth a squiz at this video to get your head around the scale of Ash’s public works!).
Attracted to the physicality, movement and performative aspect of working on a grand scale, Ash’s public work isn’t readily translatable into a gallery setting. However, in recent years, the artist has sought to find a balance between public art and studio practice. In his latest body of work, showing at Meat Market this month, Ash channels the energy and immediacy of his large fire extinguisher murals, instead drenching large stretched canvases in layer upon layer of vivid colour, applied using an industrial airless sprayer.
This is physical, time sensitive work. After applying base layers of gesso and paint, Ash runs water through his sprayer, applying this to the linen to allow the following layers of paint a greater fluidity of movement. ‘I also use an effect of fading out the gravity flow of paint at the base of the stretcher with the high pressure application of water, as I feel this gives the paintings a unique floating, dreamlike state’ the artist explains.
Key to Ash’s practice is an intuitive relationship with colour. In the studio, the artist finds himself immersed, literally, in his chosen palette each day. He’ll emerge at certain times, covered head to toe in paint, a little foggy from the fumes (despite the use of a gas mask and fume extractors). This is an intense, all-consuming environment.
Interestingly, in the days after our photo shoot, much of the lighter pink tones in these paintings were flooded with intense, dark magenta pigment. ‘I really wanted the works to be more visceral and less dreamy at that point.’ Ash says.
‘We have this incredible varied response to colour and that is the biggest hurdle for me – to know when to add or subtract according to my feelings on that day, which are always different by a matter of degree from the preceding or following days.’
Gravity System Response brings together 20 vast paintings, the biggest of which are three-and-a-half-metres tall and two-metres wide. ‘The audience can take whatever they feel from the varied, yet interconnected works’ Ash muses. ‘I just hope to provide an immersive environment that engages the audience through an awareness of time and space.’
Ash will soon embark on a month-long project in collaboration with an innovative local architecture studio. His work will also be exhibited at Sydney Contemporary in September, with his representative gallery, Blackartprojects.