Whether you see yourself as an ‘arty’ type or you don’t have one creative bone in your body, I think we can all appreciate talent when we see it.
Meet local Adelaide artist, Tom Keukenmeester.
Adelaide’s recent burgeoning art scene is certainly something to tell your interstate friends about. Cool street art, pop-up installations and weekend art shows, yes, we’re really catching on to Melbourne and finally putting some of Adelaide’s up-and-coming talents on a virtual pedestal. Tom’s passion for what he does stands out like Van Gogh’s severed ear. Too far? He’s one pretty interesting guy and there’s nothing more liberating and awe-inspiring than meeting people who find their true love and just go for it! No qualms, no doubts, no surety as what the end game will be. That’s dedication and that’s why we chose to sit down with Mr. Keukenmeester (say that 3 times fast!) and find out exactly what makes his art clock tick.
So, tell us how it all started?
Born and raised in Adelaide, I’ve always been involved in the Arts and also worked as an artist assistant through Uni. After studies, I decided to travel for about 3 or 4 years, and during that time I would always sketch and draw. Whilst over in London for modelling, I worked at an art gallery. It was then and there that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in Arts full time. I came back to Adelaide at the beginning of 2014 to start my own practice and I also began studying masters of Art/History at University of Adelaide. Last year I was given a studio residency in Sydney and offered a grant to help fund my time there.
Growing up I always wanted to be an artist or involved in something creative, I just didn’t know where to start or how to get into it. Travel certainly helped me discover that it was a possibility.
What is your creative process like?
I think about a work or composition before I even put paint to canvas or start drawing – thought process is half the battle! Once I decide what I want to do, I draw it up and then start painting. The work usually evolves over the process. What I originally thought I was going to do will alter and I’ll end up with something different. I use lots of layers to build colour and vibrancy.
How long does a piece of work take on average?
Depends on the size and the complexity. For my most recent piece (‘Jess with Still Life’ pictured above) I was working to more of a deadline over Xmas and the holidays, which forced me to finish over a three-week period. Some work takes a day and others a month.
What mediums do you like working with most?
I love oil painting, oil on board or canvas. But I also love experimenting with spray paints, charcoals, inks and resins – cool mediums. Every medium has a different affect and different compositions require different mediums.
What is a key element in all great art?
All art requires originality and uniqueness. It’s like going to the cinema, you don’t want to see something you’ve seen a million times before, you want to see something new!
Describe the difference between painting portraits and objects?
A commonality between the two is that they are figurative in nature, they’re definable. A huge difference in painting a human or person is trying to capture or reveal something about that particular ‘sitter’. People are complex, they have guises and manners to themselves to project how they want to be seen. Your job is to reveal something honest about them. Fruit doesn’t have that ability to throw you off track.
Most challenging part about being an artist?
You can’t compare yourself or your career to any other artist. You have to remember every artist’s career is unique. It’s like being a drift in the ocean – there’s no guidelines.
What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?
From Chris Orchard from Adelaide Central School during his drawing class – “You are meant to be a truth teller.” This stops you deliberately stylising or inventing things. It made me examine things more honestly.
Where can we find your work in Adelaide?
I have a few murals around the place – the Kentish Arms in North Adelaide, Cliché – the French Restaurant on O’Connell Street and Hispanic Mechanic on Glen Osmond Road. I exhibited last year for the Fringe at Chancery Lane and I’ve had solo shows here too. My next exhibition will be later in the year or early 2018.
Biggest piece of advice for someone starting out as an artist?
Immerse yourself or surround yourself with other artists and people in the field, so you have the broadest spectrum of opinions possible. Art is an opinionated industry – so you need thick skin.
Dream art job in Adelaide?
I would love to have something hung in the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Any other Adelaide artists you admire?
I have a great group of artist friends in Adelaide and we are all constantly supporting and learning from each other. Two of my closest are Tsering Hannaford and Lucy Bonnin.
Art is very soul-bearing, and also very subjective. How do you handle negative feedback or negative criticism?
Everyone has an opinion or is going to have one. You just have to take the good with the bad.
We heard you painted a portrait of someone pretty famous or should we say infamous. How was that experience?
Complex and fascinating. Rodney Adler’s portrait was my first painting I did in Sydney. If you Google him you’ll understand why.
Favourite work to date?
This changes all the time but today I’ll say – The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris by Brett Whiteley
I’m heading back to Sydney to continue my studio residency. I’m working towards a show there at the end of this year. I definitely want to come back to Adelaide in the future but I am always coming back for short trips for commissions or group shows.
SA Style QFQ · Quick Fire Questions
Favourite place on earth? Australia.
Plain or pattern? Pattern.
One thing you can’t live without? Sleep.
Poetry or rap? Poetry.
If we got matching tattoos tomorrow, what would they be? Bottles popping!
What do you dream about? Regular, everyday things and I’m always confused about whether they actually happened or not.
What are you listening to on Spotify? Don’t have Spotify but at the moment I love the song Girls – Joey Purp ft. Chance the Rapper
Biggest mistake you’ve ever made? I once put my coat down in the duty free shop of KL airport. I was 19 years old and travelling with 2 friends the same age. We weren’t there long at all but someone managed to steal my passport and tickets out of the coat. I ended up living in the KL airport terminal for three days. There was bad blood between Aus and Malaysia at the time and it became a huge issue.
If you could warp yourself to any point in time, when would it be and who would it be with? I’d go to the future and take a best friend or someone I’m dating.
What are you doing for the rest of the day? Going for a jog, probably do some work and then heading to the Fringe opening tonight.
photography · Megan Voo | words · Laura Prior