Jeff Keen

18 December 2013
Jeff Keen, O Here Comes The Seafaring Man, 1950, collage, ink and crayon, 46 x 59 cm in card mount. © Jeff Keen Estate. Courtesy the artist and Kate MacGarry

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Purchased by the Contemporary Art Society for Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. The collection at Brighton is housed in King George IV’s stable complex, and has a small but growing collection of modern and contemporary works. The collection is particularly strong in Surrealist design with works such as Salvador Dali’s iconic Mae West sofa. One of the more hidden strengths at Brighton and Hove museums is the social history collection of ephemera relating to the Brighton experimental film-makers of the early twentieth century.

Jeff Keen (1942-2012) was an experimental film-maker, poet and artist. His work has not yet enjoyed wide recognition, and it has only recently been purchased for Tate following Shoot the Wrx, a retrospective at Brighton Museum in 2012.  O Here Comes the Seafaring Man, 1950 was shown in this exhibition is a particularly evocative and allusively cinematic example of Keen’s early collage work. It was through collage that Keen found a crucial stepping-stone between art and film. This work shows a sailor in search of the carnivalesque pleasures on offer in a seaside town. Keen combines a surrealist drawing style (typical of his early drawings from the 1940s) with cutouts from magazines, to create a playful and humorous depiction of human desire.

Keen spent most of his artistic career in Brighton. The collage connects to Brighton’s existing Surrealist works, to their depictions of Brighton as a seaside resort, and to their early cinema and optical toys collection. Seafaring Man will also enable the curators at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery to conceive of new areas of collecting within Post-War British art, the international avant-garde, and more contemporary multi-media practices.


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