An interview with Andy Kehoe

Inside Andy Kehoe's studio in Pittsburgh, PA

Andy Kehoe’s new body of work Into the Depths continues the artist’s very personally inflected exploration of memory and the personal imaginary. The work is thematically akin to fairytale, as Kehoe delves into an iconography that speaks of childhood fantasies and adult nightmares; of fears and of wants translated disproportionately into the adult’s psychic realm. The end result is an uneasy pairing of whimsy and ominousness. Kehoe uses the suggestion of narrative to imply a trajectory beyond the image plane. The viewer is left feeling as though they have had a glimpse into a much longer, and more significant vignette. Just as all effective suggestions of narrative leave one feeling the absence of its absolute resolution, we feel a mesmerizing pull to Kehoe’s narrative fragments, and wonder what else lies beneath the surface.

The setting of the work is primarily arboreal: the fairytale’s stomping ground par excellence, and its characters vary from faceless amorphous specters, to giant seemingly sympathetic animals. A perfect combination of anthropomorphic creatures, and fantastical substitutions for the human, the fairy tale speaks of reality in the realm of shadow. Visually, Kehoe uses the dramatic devices of light and contrast to expound upon the emotional and atmospheric tensions the work seems to convey. Stark whites, and strategic areas of luminous color, are drawn out in contrast to pitch blacks, and obscure earth tones. Fine lines exist against solid blocks of color and areas of textured surface. The work is graphically compelling and visually seductive; combining an economy of line with a simplicity of palette.

Materially, this new body of work marks a departure for Kehoe. Using a poured resin technique, in conjunction with his accustomed paint and ink application, the artist creates further accretions of depth. This use of layering suspends the imagery spatially and contributes to the work’s mystery, visual seduction, and complexity. As though we are looking into an ominously reflective surface that might just show us more of ourselves than we had thought, the added dimensional illusion of resin suspends our gaze. Andy Kehoe’s work is compelling, haunting, and magnetic. Into the Depths reminds us of the presence of shadows always lurking just beneath the surface.

An example of Andy Kehoe's new layered resin technique. So much depth in his new work, photos can not do them justice.

An interview with Andy Kehoe

Can you share a bit about your new body of work for ‘Into The Depths‘? What do these new works represent for you?
I feel like a lot of my work is a carefully balanced marriage between the characters and their surroundings. I like the idea of a character or creature being enveloped and intertwined in the nature around them and forming a collaboration of existence together. Sometimes this relationship is strange, foreign and a bit foreboding when characters find themselves in surroundings unknown and mysterious. And many times, it is a feeling of tranquility to being where one belongs. For this show I wanted to push those feelings and really form a partnership between characters and surroundings.

What brought about the incorporation of resin and the use of layering to your work? It’s really opened up your world in a big way.
A lot of the power of this relationship to me is in how the characters and environments interact spatially so I’ve been playing with depth and layers a lot in my work over the years. I’ve been working from back to front, layer after layer with out doing any sort of sketching or layouts. It’s been a very organic process for me and very rewarding and exciting. I always make the background first and usually paint it out fully even though I know I’ll probably paint over most of it as I progress. But for me, it feels right to place someone in an environment instead of building one around them. Then I would build up and around from there using multiple layers of lacquer and Galkyd. So in this regard, moving into working with layers of Resin seemed to make a lot of sense to me because I could push that spatial relationship even further. It now seems like a more tangible relationship with the characters actually residing in the world around them. These paintings are around 15-20 layers of resin and each layer I paint builds it up a little more. I’ve always wanted to create new worlds with my work and this feels like palpable end to that desire.

In the beginning, I was only going to make a few of these as an experiment and make the rest of the work a more standard fare. But I got so many ideas for these resin pieces right away and I decided to go all in with it. There’s just so much more to play around with and I felt like my creative options flew wide open. It was a little horrifying at first as I had no idea how they would turn out and wouldn’t know how they would turn out until they were pretty much done. I didn’t even bother doing any small experimental pieces to work it out because I figured I could be halfway done with a real and grand piece by then. I had trust they would become what I wanted them to be. All in all, I’m super excited by these pieces and can’t wait to explore this medium even further.

Andy Kehoe 'Meeting With Majesty' - oil, acrylic and resin in cradled wood panel (2012)

We’re often asked if any of the characters in your work represent yourself in any way. Care to elaborate a lil’ bit?
I guess it would be impossible for them not to represent me in some way. Each of them came from somewhere deep in the recesses of my being so I’m sure they carry little bits of me around with them. A lot of times, I believe a piece as a whole and the way it all interacts speaks more of myself and not to an individual character.

What fuels you to keep creating?
I love the challenge of creating and ultimately producing a tangible visualization of an idea that’s just residing selfishly in my mind for no one else to see. Every piece is a problem to solve and no piece is ever solved the same way. Taking that journey to find that eventual end, with all the twists and turns along the way, is endlessly intriguing to me. The way I work leaves a lot of freedom to experiment and to find more and more interesting ways to reach that end. I certainly don’t enjoy every bit of it though. Drawing little leaves for 10 hours straight is never the greatest time, but I do enjoy the result and looking at the final culmination of months of work. With each painting, I have a chance to create something wondrous, imaginative and grand. I’m also in the fortunate position to share that creation with a wider audience than most. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of that and a bigger fool not to appreciate it.

Andy Kehoe 'Profound Encounters Amid the Forest Deep' - oil, acrylic and resin in cradled wood panel

Please describe your dream project if time and money were not issues.
I would love to work on some sort of animation project and go nuts on it visually. Though I love what I do because I don’t really have to deal with people that much so that aspect could be tough. I’m also interested in some sort of interactive media like a video game. I do enjoy video games but they are just stressful as hell most of the time. The visceral excitement of people blowing up into pieces is great and all, however, I feel like so many avenues of that medium aren’t explored. It would be entirely possible to make a creative, imaginative, fun and engrossing gaming experience with out racking up a major body count along the way.

Favorite item in your studio?
I like tables a lot. Putting stuff on them is great and they like to have things built on them. So I would say all my tables as a group would win.

If you were to take us out on the town in Pittsburgh, what might we get up to?
Pittsburgh is actually a very beautiful town and a lot of it’s charm is found exploring the neighborhoods and finding some of the hidden gems. If it were Fall, I might take you to a Steelers game and do some serious tail gating involving a good deal of bourbon, brats and strong beer. It’s a pretty wild experience and certainly something you’ll remember… as long as you don’t black out along the way which is entirely possible.

Andy Kehoe 'Cloaked in a Vast and Quiet Wonder' - oil, acrylic and resin in cradled wood panel (2012)

Take a sneak peek at Andy Kehoe’s new works for ‘Into the Depths‘ here:

The digital preview will be ready this Thursday, July 5th. Please send an e-mail to contact(at)thinkspacegallery(dot)com to ensure you receive the preview. We will have 23 new pieces from Andy for ‘Into the Depths‘.

Opening Reception: this Saturday, July 7th 5-9PM – come on by and say hi to Andy

‘Into the Depths‘ will be on view July 7th – July 28th at Thinkspace

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