“I can’t believe these are photographs!” is a common reaction to the work of Erin O’Keefe. (Myself included).
Due to a bad case of ‘brain melt’ in this heatwave, I thought today it would be fun to immerse ourselves in the refreshing pool of rainbow-hued light, form and shadow that is Erin’s photography.
My original idea was that all we have to do is look and enjoy. To soak up these joyous colour palettes and intriguing, abstract compositions. And give our heat-addled brains a bit of a break.
But it turns out that Erin’s work, whilst undeniably utterly gorgeous to look at, is also deliberately (if subtly) perplexing. The whole premise of her work is such that our eyes and brains doubt each other over and over again. Hence the reaction quoted at the start of this piece.
Based in New York and New Brunswick, Canada, Erin says this about her work:
I am a photographer and an architect, and my work is informed by both of these disciplines. My background in architecture is the underpinning for my art practice, providing my first sustained exposure to the issues and questions that I contend with in my photographs. The questions that I ask through my work are about the nature of spatial perception, and the tools that I use are rooted in the abstract, formal language of making that I developed as an architect.
When I first saw her earlier work, I thought Erin was producing digitally manipulated images. And her latest series of photographs look more like contemporary, abstract paintings. But then I found out more about her method of producing her signature photo-artworks.
Hard as it may be to believe, all of her work is created in-camera. Her photographs are the result of precisely lit and exquisitely coloured compositions that she laboriously constructs in a small corner of her studio. (Apparently she’s made over 800 so far).
As a photographer, I am interested in the layer of distortion and misapprehension introduced by the camera as it translates three dimensional form and space into two dimensional image. This inevitable and often fruitful misalignment is the central issue in my work.
The series ‘Things As They Are’ (all the images above) uses painted backgrounds and sheets of acrylic. The translucency adds an underwater feel to the light and reflections don’t you think? And the colours are so soft, a real sorbet/gelato-inspired palette of raspberry, mango, pistachio and mint. (Maybe I just have icy cold ice-cream on the brain…).
Her latest series, ‘Built Work’, (pictured below) uses painted plywood shapes which she arranges into perspective-defying compositions. (There are some great pictures of these plywood shapes and props on her Instagram account, link below).
They’re like a child’s set of wooden building blocks – but in the most beautiful, grown-up, painterly tones. Although she does attribute some of her colour influences to having children and being surrounded by her daughters’ toys and games.
The colours in this series are deeper and bolder, but again the colour combinations are utterly inspired. If you’re searching for home decor ideas, then look no further.
These shades of deep blue/green, mustard yellow, earthy/plaster pink and butterscotch-toned terracotta are all totally on-point for interiors schemes right now.
Well, what an absolute joy it’s been sharing these with you. My heart is honestly going pitter-patter and skipping the odd beat with colour-love! And I’ve made a list below of places where you can see, and learn more about, Erin’s work if you’re interested.
I hope you have a lovely, colourful weekend – wherever you may be. Me, I’m hoping to see the blood moon tonight, and these photos have inspired me to dust off my camera and look around me to find my own inspirational corner to play around in with form and colour.
More info and images here at erinokeefe.com
Erin O’Keefe on Instagram; don’t miss the pictures of all her painted wooden shapes and props – magical!
More insight into Erin’s work plus pictures of her studio in this interview with her on artspace.com
An in-depth interview about her processes and inspirations and more pictures of Erin’s studio at paper-journal.com