Artists Alliance Mentee Profile | Louise Keen

Louise Keen answered a few questions for us about her art practice. 

Louise Keen’s work carefully incorporates salvaged everyday detritus, pieces of cardboard and assorted objects. By reworking and showing the pieces anew she makes comment on consumption in contemporary society. Her approach to art-making is tactile, she binds and embroiders the found materials with others, sketches across the surfaces and draws on an oeuvre of traditional craft techniques. Graduating in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Whitecliffe, Louise then took part in the 2014 Artists Alliance Mentoring Programme, partnered with Niki Hastings-McFall.

What have your impressions been as a recent graduate in Auckland?

I think it is important to make sure you do not become isolated in your artmaking once you graduate – getting a mentor was an amazing advantage. Also, I made an effort to keep the connections I had formed in the years at art school. The Auckland art community can be daunting at times but I am lucky to have met some good people.

Ideas of consumption and reuse are central to your artmaking. What encouraged you to embrace these ideas? Have they always been present in your work?

I think I have always been aware that production and consumption are part of the same cycle, this awareness has helped me in my endeavour to interpret the world in the sustainable practice of making art.

The process involved in making the work is as important as the methodology of collecting the everyday materials – both products of my individual consumption and society’s. I use modern materials with craft and borrow freely from traditional techniques to incorporate mark making. By doing this I am able to translate these artefacts into contemporary displays.

Making art in this way can become a source of inspiration in itself, as well as opening discussion for deeper cultural concerns. It brings to the forefront concerns about the environment and the natural world, including the awareness that humanity’s garbage is a large and seemingly permanent feature of today’s world. It is, I believe, through this personal journey that the work is underpinned with the elements of chaos and control.

Aside from Niki Hastings-McFall, have there been any other big influences or influencers in your workings as an artist?

I think the really big influences have been Picasso, Rauschenberg, McCahon, Hotere and Vivienne Westwood.

I’m always interested in how people work. Do you set yourself studio time? Need absolute silence? Have to work in the dead of the night?

I have specific studio days that are just for artmaking and evenings for doing research. I try to be in the studio early in the week (as mid-week gets busy) and have a day off on Fridays to go swimming, visit art galleries, and research in the library. I read the other day about how you need to have a balance of input and output, so I try to make sure I have that balance in my life. Although, some weeks are more successful than others.

I usually work in silence ‘with just the voices in my head’ but do listen to classical music from time to time.

And finally, are you working toward any projects at the moment?

I have two shows coming up in October: a show with Helen Clegg in Artweek and a group show at HOTDATE at the end of October.

You can find a bit more about Louise and pictures from her previous exhibitions over on her website.


Interview by Rosa Gubay, with thanks to Louise Keen.