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DREAM JOB

Séamus Kealy: Drawing attention to the absurd

By Sharon Aschaiek
Toronto Sun


It's art imitating art imitating art, with a twist of absurdity.

That's what you get when you play a DVD movie, freeze a random frame, photograph or videotape that frame, and then paint the photo. It's called process-based painting, and Canadian artist Seamus Kealy has the market cornered.


"When I watch a film, I'm looking for moments that strike me in an intuitive way, that have a sense of conflict," says Kealy, 30. "By the time I make a painting, I want it to be so far away that it has nothing to do with the film."

He has applied his technique to films like Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, and to old John Wayne Western films. He creates from films that present a strong element of fantasy, and through his painting, further distorts that reality.

"I like taking images that are mythical, i.e. Western films; the wild West didn't really happen like that, it's represented as something that did happen, which is absurd," says Kealy, whose work is currently being featured in the Moving Pictures exhibit at the Garth Drabinsky Gallery. "I'm trying to draw attention to the absurdity."

He might work with one still, or with two or three different stills that don't necessarily follow in sequence. But the end goal is to get the viewer to look beyond the connection to the movie.

"I want to test the way we see something happening on the screen, or our memory of something," he says. "Somehow there's a relationship between the stills that has nothing to do with the narratives."

It's a style which, according to Kealy, is unique to him alone. But it took a long time and a lot of experimenting to develop.
Séamus Kealy, above, and above, his process-based painting called Over the Shoulder


The kernel of artistic talent presented itself at an early age, and by the time he was a teenager living in Sudbury, he was drawing and painting comic book characters like SpiderMan and Batman and selling them to his younger brother.

After high school, he went on to pursue a fine arts degree at the University of Ottawa, and then later went to study at the University of British Columbia. There he had the dream opportunity to work with veteran Canadian photographic artist Jeff Wall.

He continued to paint and hone his style throughout school, and by the time he graduated, he had begun painting from photographs.

But his passion for art extends beyond his own work. He also works as a curator, organizing exhibitions that showcase the work of up-and-coming artists.

His last show, called Failure, looked at the idea of failure in many aspects -- love relationships, modern art, life as an artist, etc., and was very well-received by the local community.

"I'd like to see art as being part of every day life, just like you read a book or turn on the TV," he says. In the end, the art Kealy produces is never a finished product, but rather is borne of his struggle to find the reality in each picture.

"I don't know where to situate the reality in the painting," Kealy says. "The whole struggle is finding the reality, it's not about coming to the end, but it's in that struggle. In every painting it works out differently."

Check out Kealy's work at the Drabinsky Gallery, on 122 Scollard Street, until July 31. Call 416-423-5766 for information, or visit www.drabinskygallery.com.



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