Richard Killeen

untitled

1969
ink on paper
500mm x 500mm

signed Killeen in graphite and dated 20/4/69 in brushpoint lower left

Provenance

Private collection, Auckland.

Essay

There are painters who aim for a direct, no-nonsense message. They marshal colours, shapes, figures, signs and symbols—even words—to convey the strongest possible emotions a...

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Estimate $2,500 - $3,500
Achieved $5,276.25

Richard Killeen

untitled

1969

ink on paper

signed Killeen in graphite and dated 20/4/69 in brushpoint lower left

500mm x 500mm

Auction N˚4

Estimate $2,500 - $3,500

Achieved $5,276.25

Killeen’s Early Realism

by Laurence Simmons

There are painters who aim for a direct, no-nonsense message. They marshal colours, shapes, figures, signs and symbols—even words—to convey the strongest possible emotions and experiences. Colin McCahon was a New Zealand painter of this kind. In the work of these artists, a limping brushstroke, a dotted line, a gesture makes an immediate, unequivocal appeal. It takes us right to the point. But, for many artists, getting to the point right away is anything but the point. Richard Killeen recoils from such graphic directness. With Killeen what you see in a painting, or at least what you initially see, are appearances that mask as much as they reveal. As you start looking, the game of working it all out has only just begun. The shapes and vagaries of Killeen’s early realist paintings and drawings of the late 1960s, of men and women in domestic and suburban settings, are nothing less than invitations to uncertainty.

It is this uncertainty that also tells us that “realist” is the wrong label to apply here. In these works, there exists a desire to communicate; and yet, a sense of estrangement emanates from the figures, who seem less depicted than imported, like animate stage props, seemingly entranced but with an insouciance that can unsettle the viewer. These are fictional beings, cobbled together in collaborations (or are they conspiracies?). This drawing is emblematic of this existential gawkiness: at times the monumental faces off against the intimate, a drawn line against a painted smear, and there are derangements of scale and frame. How does the large face emerging into the frame from the right relate to the smaller mid-ground figure? Their faces are turned towards each other. Yet there is no sense of priority; the face to the side is larger and closer but it does not take precedence. What is the connection between the spiky phoenix palms and the airliner in the upper right background? Why does the plane appear as if it were about to fall out of the sky? Since the composition is divided by what appear to be gathered curtains, are we looking through two large plate-glass windows at an exterior garden?