John Keane (b.1954)

Brick Wall (1989)

John Keane has established a reputation as a political artist through a sustained artistic inquiry into the horrors of military and social conflicts around the world and the effects of media distortion. His subjects have included Northern Ireland, Central America and the Middle East; and has involved working with organisations such as Greenpeace and Christian Aid. Keane first came to prominence when he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in 1990 to be the Official British War Artist of the Gulf War. He is also known for commissioned portraits of notable individuals such as Mo Mowlam, Jon Snow and Kofi Annan.

Keane has exhibited internationally, and his work is in public collections including Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; Christie’s Corporate Collection, London; Detroit Institute of Fine Art, Michigan; Glasgow Museums: Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; and the Imperial War Museum, London. He was invited to be the inaugural Artist in Residence at the School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews, Scotland in 2014, and was the winner of the Main Prize for the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2015. He was the subject of a book by Mark Lawson, The Art of John Keane, published by Flowers Gallery in 2015. He lives and works in London.

This piece, entitled Brick Wall was initially exhibited as part of Keane’s solo exhibition ‘The Other Cheek?’ at Flowers East, London in 1990 which then travelled to the Arts Council Gallery, Belfast in 1991. The exhibition was a result of a trip to Northern Ireland in the summer of 1989. The title came from comments made by members of the loyalist community, the republican community, and the British army - 'What do you expect us to do? Turn the other cheek?’

Brick Wall is both a physical reality and a metaphor. Close observation will reveal the image of a small door in the gable wall. The artist describes this as the door that leads through the wall of violence to dialogue.