Paintings in Ochre: Girl on the Shore by Amy Keevy is an ongoing exploration of the body and the shoreline using the warm tones of ochre, rust, and flesh.
Cape Town, South Africa: Amy Keevy spent the first few weeks of lockdown in 2020 on the west coast of South Africa where blush, rust and ochre tones are abundant along the shoreline. The colours on the rocks, the shapes of creatures and objects along the wild coast, and the hours spent walking are elements she tumbled together in this new series of watercolour paintings. Paintings in Ochre: Girl on the Shore examines the artist’s connection with the earth and the ways in which her body moves through space. These works were expanded by the sea, at a strange time when access to nature and freedom of movement – life as we knew it – was both prohibited and yearned for collectively. This series responds to the cyclical flow of nature, and offers a glimpse at natural and spiritual powers out of our control.
Amy paints to portray the world she occupies. As such, an organic melding of sensuality, warmth, uncertainty, and abstraction is evident in Paintings in Ochre: Girl on the Shore. The markings and line work are reminiscent of microscopic single cell diatoms floating in a primordial stew, or patterns found in Batik printmaking. Upon closer inspection, we can see the shapes of wombs and rounded bellies. The expanding crawling colours of this series mimic the way lichen creeps over salt sprayed rock. In one painting, we glimpse genitalia, in another, the outlines of prehistoric venus figurines. A ghostly girl’s lips are outstretched - to consume or to kiss? Seed pods are swallowed by amber, and a woman’s reclining torso is examined. In this latest ongoing body of work, the brushwork and lines move from tightly controlled marks defining tiny creatures, to bloated unwieldy shapes with bleeding edges, like a water damaged mirage or rusting decayed creatures in heavenly or otherworldly realms. Their contours are familiar and yet changed. For Amy, these paintings are an expression of the flow she feels between the joy of being in nature and a nostalgic longing for a more simple life, where humans live closely with nature, rather than asserting dominance over it.
Recently, Amy discovered she has aphantasia ~ which is a condition in which a person is unable to visualise mental images. She explains “I’d never understood what someone meant when they say they can ‘see’ something in their minds. For me it’s a blur of colours, tone, and light. I’ve wondered if this has made me hold on to the memory of feelings, because once I’ve seen something, it’s gone.” Recognising that she has aphantasia provided Amy with a deeper understanding of the way she sees and experiences the world and how this informs her painting process.
In this body of work, Amy uses only ochre, one of the oldest known paint pigments in the world – cave paintings over 17,000 years old are made from these colours. Taking her palette inspiration from this, Amy also references the ways in which women have been portrayed, and have presented themselves throughout time, from ancient venus figurines to contemporary portraits. Employing the wide breadth of tones ochre offers: from flesh, blush, and blood to rust, burnt umber, deep gold and sienna, Amy embraces the unexpected changes wrought by wet ink on paper. Painting has always provided her with a meditative space, and through her experimentation with how water shapes colour, she is constantly exploring notions of self and femininity.
Over the last six years, her work has evolved from paper and photographic glass collage referencing her own body, to fluid watercolour and ink on paper exploring how the moon has a hold on her memory, form and shadow. This latest series expands on this theme of connection between herself and her surroundings.
For Paintings in Ochre: Girl on the Shore, Amy will offer selection of original watercolour paintings in ochre ranging from A5 - A1 in size, as well as a selection of fine art limited edition prints with archival ink on acid free Felix Schoeller True Fibre 200gsm.
Amy Keevy was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and graduated with a B-tech in Fine Art at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2009. She lives and works in Cape Town as a brand curator and artist.
Copywriter ~ Leora Joy
Photographer ~ Hannah Beth
Styling and set assistant ~ Leezbet Krige