Arts and Entertainment

Landscapes like you’ve never seen before

(Above) Looking from afar at one of Keogh’s newsprint reliefs. (Inset) A close up of the detail. - Bill Mickelson/Staff Photos
(Above) Looking from afar at one of Keogh’s newsprint reliefs. (Inset) A close up of the detail.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff Photos

Edmonds artist Alison Keogh brings her own unique, personal landscapes to the island.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a landscape exhibit at all.

Big, brown abstract squares hang in a line on the far wall, bookending the title of the show written in black font “Landscapes: A Different View.” It is a different view indeed.

From afar, the featured pieces resemble giant patches of fabric more so than any sort of land. But the earth is actually within the work. These are the personal landscapes of the artist Alison Keogh (pronounced Kee-oh).

Keogh says the small, narrow show room at the north end of the Island Gallery on Bainbridge is perfect for her work. The compact space forces the viewer to be intimately involved. It’s up close and personal where the fineness of Keogh’s art is really revealed.

Taking a closer look, those big fabric-looking squares, for instance, are actually made up of thousands of tediously tinted, arranged, raised and adhered strips of newspaper. Looking even closer, by reading Keogh’s explanation which is posted on the wall next to the series, you discover the strips are not-so-sentimentally from the British Financial Times and each of the ridges — which give the newsprint reliefs their topographical landscape quality — were created absent-mindedly in rhythm with the artist’s breathing patterns.

Taking one step closer, into the mind of Keogh (which will be available at the artist’s talk, slated for Jan. 18 at the gallery) she says, “I don’t like to have an end product in mind, it’s the repetition of the physical process, or the gesture as I call it, that creates the final product.”

It’s a very meditative process, though she wouldn’t call it meditation. She works with the patience of a monk, the precision of a cartographer and the soul of an artist.

That process is where the life is. The living dialogue between Keogh’s inner-self and the canvas creates art that is inextricably unique and, at its core, very organic.

Interestingly, with this collection of newsprint reliefs, the artist has taken an industrially made medium — newsprint — and manipulated it into an artistically organic landscape, reminiscent of an extreme aerial view of the desert. On the facing wall, she’s used one of the utmost organic mediums — graphite rubbings of fall leaves — in a very repetitious and mechanical way.

On the back wall, in an evolving series of what she calls sumi-scapes, she’s taken the ancient Japanese and Chinese medium of sumi ink and applied it to the zen-like process of the newsprint reliefs, fusing a contemporary, abstract concept with the traditional ancient technique.

And there’s more.

“I like to create work that comes from within,” Keogh said.

She’s not all that well known of an artist, her work not all that prestigious.

But she’s very centered in the way she carries herself — probably part of what brings out such unique contradictions in her work. She’s an artist with an architectural background, a desert-loving person living in the dreary wet weather of Puget Sound, an admittedly not-so-rhythmic dancer with an intrinsic rhythm underscoring most basic level of her artwork.

Her artistically organic landscape exhibit, her first show ever on the island, has been up since December, helping to celebrate the Island Gallery’s sixth anniversary along with the annual Wearable Art Show.

And as the celebration comes to a close, Keogh will be expanding further on her inspiration and techniques, and “dialogue with the natural world,” speaking in the gallery at 2 p.m. Jan. 18.

The show hangs through Jan. 23.

See more of Keogh’s media-transcending organic works, go to www.alisonkeough.com. For more on the Island Gallery, check out www.theislandgallery.net.

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