The Drawers - Shelagh Keeley   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Beauty & Obsession

There is a confidence that comes with maturity, when identity is not a question and the personification of self is generous like a monarch bequeathing treasures. Shelagh Keeley extrapolates this generosity to include intimate disclosures and yet retains her regal posture with an elegant hand. She accomplishes all of this with a spare-ness that denies the temptation to display opulence. These drawings, made in Paris, bring a cosmopolitan sophistication from the boudoir to the cultured foreground of gallery spaces.

The collaged black and white photographs have seeped into the creamy matt texture of the paper and faded to a nostalgic tone in tune with their era. The vessels, so purple they're almost black, have a velvety, summer-night sheen. Each drawing is an invitation to enter and the empty vessels; both heart and womb floating on the bone surface have an ambient relationship to the plops of gold. The gold dots puddle in places so that the application of the paint appears to have been extravagant, a luxurious act with liquid gold to spare, dropped from on high; a veritable libation. The words, an energetic script in pencil, seem like a hasty note or a passionate missive where the important words leap out - “Sapho”, “erotic”, “flesh”.

This is the work of a woman who is speaking of lovers in the plural like a connoisseur, a woman who is very feminine and who has lived in France. This is the world of Colette and Anais Nin, the realm of libertines - Paris! - where corsets, garters and their neighborly association to white naked skin is held in rightful esteem. The very word “lingerie” is said the French way, in the language of love and seduction, showing just enough to titillate and still being sufficiently in control, almost aloof, able to proceed with an objectivity that lends art to the act.

Keeley's visual metaphors are rich and yet subtle, deft yet emotive, in extremely good taste and absolutely discrete. Like the show of a slim ankle by a lady.

Copyright © 2006,  Headbones Gallery, The Drawers