Olivié Keck: Art is all about reinventing the wheel

Architerior talked to South African artist Olivié Keck about her love for paper, how social media and digital platforms inspire her to create art, and what original and authentic art really means.

Olivié, you studied at Michaelis University of Cape Town in South Africa. During your learning, which materials, forms and colours have resonated with you?

Printmaking was my medium at University and paper has always resonated with me, hence my affinity for drawing and print. I love the humble, no-frills quality of paper; how the simplest of marks can completely transform its surface into a complex narrative. I have always loved colour and the science of colour theory. I don’t have a preference for any specific one, rather the combination of colours, how they sit next to each other and how they evoke a wide range of moods based on their pairing. I would describe my work as having an awkward form – Always un-a-bashfully off-center. I wouldn’t even say this is a preference, but more a case of me having a lazy hand and a crooked eye.

I see that you have worked with a wide range of materials and painting techniques. Can you tell us a little about how your style has developed?

After my studies I did a show called False Priest. This was my first solo exhibition outside of academia. I took my love of print mediums and combined it with an interest in fabric and embroidery. The work I made was very tactile and very colorful. I used the historical language of quilt making to illustrate narratives around the concept of Afterlife.

Ceramics was a love that came later. A few years into my artistic career, I was looking for a different outlet. Something with form and dimension where I could get my hands stuck in the mud. Clay was a new medium I found some refugee in. I began to explore a different way of talking to my audience in the 3rd dimension. I relish the raw tactility of this making process and the alluring finish of the glossy product. Again it’s the humble beginnings of clay and the transformation through fire that hooked me in.

Olivié Keck

As a young South African artist; what themes, memes or social scenes inspire you?

I don’t like overstating my affinity to a geographical location – I think my nationality comes through in the work without any conscious effort. Most of my recent inspiration comes from what might be considered ‘low brow’ sources. I’m interested in trawling through platforms where human behavior is heightened or accentuated – social media platforms, digital platforms, and of course television in general is a big one. I also love discovering how people work, so sciences like neurology and psychology are also pretty hot topics for me.

What do you feel is the hardest part about being a young South African artist?

Being on the outer edge of the map.

What is the best thing about being an artist?

Having a studio to luxuriate in your own ideas.

Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra special to you?

Moments that I’ve relished to date have been the two residencies I’ve been on in the last two years. The first was at The Kala Art Institute, in San Francisco, where I spent 3 month on a print residency. When I returned I exhibited the series of works I made in my second solo exhibition ‘Selfie Fulfilling Prophecy’. This show was a pleasure to make and I had so many good memories attached to the work. The second career highlight was getting to spend 2  months on a print residency at Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium earlier this year. I learnt so much and got to meet some amazing artists from all over the world. I will be exhibiting the new work early next year.

What are you working on right now?

I’m busy working on a collaborative game-meets-art virtual reality experience with SA Game Design Studio, Free Live. It’s my first digital venture and I’m collaborating with a number of very inspiration people in different field to make this project into a reality. I’m quite excited about it.

What does “good art” mean to you?

I actually think I have traditionally bad taste in art. Had a kitten puzzle framed yesterday… real classy! After all this time, education and contemplation I’ve realized that good art is the art one likes and bad art is the art one don’t like. It’s all about “tribes of taste” and whatever you like; it’s bound to fit in somewhere.

If you could exhibit your art anywhere, where would it be?

I don’t like to give myself unrealistic goals, so I guess I would say… New York MOMA.

In your home, do you have your own art or works by others artists on the walls?

Yes, I have a small collection starting up. Representing the local part of my collection is, works by Mia Chaplin, Michael Taylor and Danielle Clough. International works I have hanging on my walls are from exchanges I’ve done while on residencies. It’s one of the perks of being a travelling artist; you can swap your creations for other peoples. I have a couple of miscellaneous artworks aswell, just no name brands I really like.

How does one manage to stay unique in the art world, and is that important?

If you seek out your own questions and are sincerely interested in what you make, it will always shine through. I don’t really believe in authenticity in art, because nothing can be truly original at this point in history. I always have a reference in mind when I make something, and in that way I’m never alone, but I think it’s about learning from the artists you admire. I think art is all about reinventing the wheel.

If you could leave us with a single thought for the day, what would that thought be?

I think sharing ideas and generating discussion is very important for artists. Being an artist is not about being an island. Be generous with your ideas. This will only make your practice more enriching.


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