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hl next level 2018: multidisciplinary artist olivié keck

Trevor Stuurman


While Olivié Keck  refers to herself as an artist, the title encompasses many aspects: she’s a printmaker, designer, ceramicist, illustrator and experimental collaborator. Following an invitation to attend a two-month artist-in-residency programme for printmaking at the Kala Art Institute at Berkeley in the US in 2016, she got the opportunity to attend another artist-in-residency programme at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium – both defining moments in her career so far.

how did you get started?

I studied fine art at Michaelis, at the University of Cape Town. After that I pretty much hit the ground running by getting a studio and having some low-key exhibitions with fellow young artists.

did you always want to be doing what you’re doing now?

I’ve always wanted to be an artist, if I could go back and make a different choice I would do it all again. I don’t think I’d be good at anything else, ha ha.

do you have any favourites among the works you’ve created?

I don’t really have favourites; each artwork represents a different moment in my life and I value these moments equally. Every time I see an artwork I made in the past, I get transported back to how I felt in that moment. My works feel like bookmarks that anchor my personal experiences, feelings and progression through life.

what has been your defining career moment to date?

All the solo shows I’ve had to date have been big career moments for me. Another significant moment was getting invited to attend a two-month artist-in-residency programme especially for printmaking at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, USA. And in 2017, I was invited to attend a second two-month artist-in-residency programme at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium.

which female creatives are on your radar at the moment?

Mia Chaplin, Miranda Moss, Gitte Möller, Danielle Clough, Michaela Younge and Anja Venter.

and which artists inspire you?

Ceramicist Grayson Perry, photographer Ashley Armitage and painter Kerry James Marshall.

where do you find your inspiration?

My creative inspiration has always existed in a constant state of percolation. In filtering through contemporary culture, I’ve tried to discern cultural behaviours that strike me as interesting subjects, often disregarded as ‘commonplace'. The trick is trying to depict and reinterpret these everyday subjects and intimate moments into the wonder of art – worthy of attention and intrigue.

I often liken my creative process to that of a ‘trashy detective-meets-street-stylist’. I look for clues in plain sight, attempting to extract a salacious portrayal of cultural behaviours, then dress it up with my own creative license, give it a few witty accessories, and hope that it will come out the other end as an aesthetic moment in history.

which place would you recommend people visit?

The Norval Foundation, a foundation/museum that opened to the public in April 2018. It’s located in Cape Town and houses an impressive permanent collection, rotating exhibitions and a magical sculpture garden. If you’re looking for a world-class display of South African and African art, this place is well worth a visit.

what’s the most memorable piece of art you’ve ever seen?

I think the most astounding artwork I’ve ever experienced was ‘Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds)’ by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the Tate Modern in London. This massive art installation includes over 100 million handpainted porcelain sunflower seeds that covered a 1000-square-metre floor in the museum’s famous Turbine Hall. In rural China, seeds represent optimism during difficult times and the combination of all the seeds suggests that together, the people of China can stand up and overthrow the oppression of the Chinese Communist Party. I found it very moving.

what are you up to next?

I’m working on a new show at the moment. I’ll be making large-scale ‘colour-wonderful’ Posca paintings, which is new territory for me. It’s going to be a cultural parody of the rising obsession with crime as entertainment. I’m really excited about it and the cultural references are rich and plentiful, so it’s a pleasure to create.

Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018  issue.