Olivié Keck is a print maker who also works in embroidery, ink, installation, sculpture, and drawing. She’s also a professional illustrator on the side. Looking at her work, the common theme appears to be variety. But within this experimentation is a careful consideration – of these myriad mediums so that they’re by no means frivolous, and the honing and refining of ideas and concepts.
In her illustration work, Olivié works by the motto ‘If in doubt, just do it loud’. The result is, well, bold, but also playful, humorous, and when in colour, delightfully bright. Olivié’s False Priest exhibition is currently on at Commune. 1, which is an intimate exploration of the function of memory, dreams and sleep in our formation and distinction of ‘Self’.
Have you always known that you wanted to be an artist, or has it been a journey of finding your way here?
I don’t think you ever really ‘know’ anything for sure; I’m not a Certainty Freak unfortunately. Nevertheless, getting up in the morning demands making choices. Looking back, I must be happy about the choices I’ve made, because I keep making them and people keep encouraging me to make them. I respond to the world in a pictorial way, all of the conversations in my head contain a visual; it’s just the way I’m wired. Making sense of the world is a challenge for me, but I accept this challenge and label it ‘ART’.
You describe yourself as a practicing fine artist and a freelance illustrator. Where do you draw the distinction between these two roles, and these two fields, both personally and in general?
They are both equal in their own right and satisfy different parts of my aesthetic. They exist along side each other and are both unashamedly ‘O.K’. In general, the most defining distinction between these two fields is probably cost and time. Maybe people see illustration as less important? Personally I think that’s just a weird institutional hangover. However, if this is the general belief, then I own the task of being subtly subversive; ‘high brow’ and ‘low brow’ at the same time – makes me feel like Punch at a party – you never know what you’re gonna’ get!
You’re a qualified printmaker however are not bound to that (or any other) medium. Please tell us a little about some of your favourite mediums, and why you enjoy working across such a wide variety as you do?
My current show ‘False Priest’ contains a lot of printmaking techniques on fabric. I enjoy the versatility of it and the varied visual you can achieve with different processes, and it’s pretty niche – I like that. However, yes, I don’t like to marry myself to any one medium. I like to think of the medium as a malleable means to an end. For this show I wanted to explore ‘narrative and storytelling pertaining to the notion of humanness’ and that’s why I chose to work with traditional techniques of hand-embroidery and quilting. The works have got a domestic feel and I like that about them – Being Human is deeply personal and I wanted the medium to invoke that sentiment. It’s not about a wayward attempt to try everything; it’s about wanting to visualize a thought and letting the thought denote the form. I hate the idea of wanting to make a sculpture, but you only allow yourself to make paintings, so you don’t make it because it’s outside your ‘framework’… that’s such a shame. I also don’t like the idea of being a ‘project manager’, so whatever the medium, I like to be hands-on, not outsourcing!
Your illustrations bare a similar semblance of experimentation, in terms of style and inspiration. Please tell us more about this work and the influences you draw inspiration from, as well as your different techniques…
My illustration work is full of moments I absorb in the world around me – the produce of a quizzical sponge. When I’m working on an illustration it can be anything. It’s relatively free. That’s what I like about drawing; it’s not definitely anything. It’s a glorious exercise and the lack of expectation is a playground for bottomless inspiration. An illustration can spring from something as inconspicuous as a phrase that someone says, which sparks a visual. A Bad Film or a Good Book – it’s a very dizzy thing. Illustration style? My personal preference is towards bright, bold and effortlessly skew. My motto is “If in doubt, just do it Loud.”
Is there an overlap between your fine art practice and your illustration work?
I borrow from both fields all the time. It’s the same brain at work; it would be impossible to prevent cross-pollination. Obviously, when I’m working on a body of pieces I have to commit to that large-scale idea and there has to be a distinct progression of thought. Therefore, in a Solo Show (i.e. False Priest) scenario I have to be more patient and tender with the subject and I often have to work in mediums that require a different skill set from my illustration work.
Which is more rewarding for you, the creative process itself, or the final completed work?
I enjoy the ‘creative process’ because in that moment the work is private, it’s a personal conversation- a ‘Raison d’Etre’ between myself and the things I am making. In those moments of making ‘the work’ is everything to me and I like the sense of responsibility I feel towards finishing it. Once it is complete, I hide it away and much later I can enjoy it as an object with a life of its own.
Can you please tell us about your show False Priest, currently on at Commune. 1 – Where does the title comes from, what themes and subjects are you exploring, and how…
The title ‘False Priest’ refers to the name I have given to ‘the narrator/voice of the human mind’ in the show. It is not intended to be read as a religious title, but rather the embodiment of what the word ‘Priest’ implies– an authority who catharts on matters of the unknown. Each work is essentially a tale about existing. It attempts to look at the function of memory, dreams, sleep and how these aspects of our ‘Self’ inform our distinction as individuals in the world. I tried to investigate/ incorporate a rich human history of ‘narratives’ that comfort us and allow us to exist outside of our mortal limitations.
What role does humour and narrative play in your work?
I think ‘subversive wit’ is a powerful tool in ART. I like to think I wheeled it as a weapon against all the hardness in the world. I think it’s a great way to reach people. It’s like saying ‘I acknowledge life is hard, you’re damaged, I’m damaged, but maybe let’s make something joyful in this moment we exist in, even if it is just a story we tell ourselves.’ Narrative is a vital part of being human in my opinion. My work is pretty much hinged on this belief in the power of storytelling. The Epic Story of Human Ambiguity and the nuanced tales that inform our justification for ‘truth’ and ‘meaning’…
What are you reading, watching, listening to right now?
At the moment I’m reading Leonard Cohen’s book of poems entitled ‘ The Book of Longing’ – I love the brutal vitality of his words. I’m watching The Rape of Europa about The Nazi’s stolen art collection- very juicy. I’m listening to The Doors, Air and Real Estate, and the online Podcast from NYC Public Radio called ‘Stuff You Should Know’.
What can we look forward to seeing from you soon?
I will be having an illustration show (Open Studio) in December, and hopefully some group shows to follow in the new year.