Discover / Meet the Artist
Interview with Keith Eager
"Painting for me is less premeditated, less planning and thumbnails and hidden meanings, and more of an immediate response."
Today, we'd like to introduce you to
Keith Eager @keitheager
What does your work aim to say?
Painting for me right now is about a reaction to something I’m seeing happening in the world. It’s less premeditated, less planning and thumbnails and hidden meanings, and more of an immediate response. Painting is formal enough without all of that. The works observe the human condition and tell stories, but the charged moment or image is primary.
Do you remember your first interaction with art?
I grew up with artist parents who put me in art classes as a child, so my first memories of art are of making abstract paintings at a local art centre, going on field trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and seeing my parents work in darkrooms, photo centres and galleries. And as I was growing up, my friends and I would spend a lot of time drawing sculpting and building our own miniature worlds.
How important is having a personal connection to the subject matter that you choose to paint?
Personal connection is everything. When I paint from a photograph that’s not my own, I feel somewhat like an imposter for doing it. But if I strongly relate to the mood, subject or story, that connection will see me through to a good conclusion, and a piece that has it’s own life. However, when I paint from my own photos, memories and experiences, the work is as strong, integrated and congruent as it can be.
Artists and art lovers often have one painting by a great artist that has especially influenced them or holds special meaning.
What is the one painting that had the biggest impact on you as you were beginning your career, and why?
This is a really tricky question. There are so many great paintings and great artists, it’s impossible to pick just one. I was exposed to a lot of artwork at a young age. Maybe if I had come to art later on, there would be one piece that drew me in. It’s a romantic idea, but not a reality for me.
Do you think it's important to have some political agenda?
As artists we are sensitive to the world around us; we’re observers of the current moment. We take in what we see, and reflect it back to viewers through our cultural production. The current moment is immensely important politically, so it’s impossible for me to not to create work that has a political charge. Of course it’s good to do the opposite as well, to create work that is completely escapist; we need that release. But even a utopian creation has its political underpinning.
Name 5 things you wish you knew as a beginner artist
One – There is a time to create without reservation and a time to ruthlessly edit. The edits come after initial drafting.
Two – It’s important to recognize that all artists, including peers, have put time into their craft. Excellence isn’t always due to talent.
Three – Perfect is often the enemy of progress. To finish a thing is better than to delay, fearing potential failure.
Four – Believe in your own ideas. No one else has a better idea of what you should be doing with a project or career path. To think or do otherwise puts you at odds with yourself.
Five – Success is the result of sustained effort over time. Don’t compare yourself with others who are ahead.
How do you see your art developing in the coming years?
I’m still learning how to loosen up and play more with the medium in a piece. The practice of combining collage, narrative painting, naturalism and abstraction to build up an image is both puzzling and interesting to me at present. I’m not sure how far in each direction I will push, or what combination I’ll end up with, but that’s certainly the type of work I’m interested in viewing and making right now.
What’s your professional goal?
I’m looking forward to the upcoming art fair season and all of the creative work leading up to it. As soon as things return to normal, I want to travel for my art. I’d like to show work internationally as I move into more of a full time creative practice. An element that I want to bring back into my overall practice is making comics. Seeing my comics in a print is such a huge, concrete goal for me.
If you had the chance to live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose?
The 19th century wing of a museum is always the most interesting to me. I really enjoy browsing the salon rooms and seeing the influence that academic realism and plein air impressionism had on one another. The art and artists that I find most interesting are somewhere in between those movements, at times good examples of each. From the middle of the 19th to the turn of the 20th century: this was the high point of pure drawing and painting that is representational. If I could occupy another time and space, this would be it.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Please explain your choice.
It would be either France, Germany or Italy although I’ve never been to those countries. I have a perhaps naive idea that living in Europe would be the ultimate artistic experience, being surrounded by great historical works, buildings and culture.