Shelagh Keeley, visual artist & 2017 Canada Council laureate – film by Maya Annik Bedward

Shelagh Keeley, visual artist & 2017 Canada Council laureate – film by Maya Annik Bedward


I think drawing is a language, the notion of
a non-verbal communication. I think drawing
is pretty primal. And I think all those things
and intrigue me about it and the viscerality of it. When I started out
in the early 1970s, making art and going to school,
it was very structured. It was still the era that
drawing was preparatory. I never saw it that way. I actually saw it as this
open door I could go through so it just seemed like:
oh, okay, I love drawing,
I’m going to do this. Then I started drawing on walls. My very early work was
a lot with wax and pigments and smearing of walls was actually
my body movement on the wall – kind of this notion of
marking the space with my body. It’s really being in the room
and almost having the walls tell me what they want me to do. I sort of think of life
in a slightly fleeting manner. I think vulnerability
in the body and a permanence… all those things
have been part of my work and probably the wall drawings
that then disappear. What makes something obsolete? You take it out of context
or you bring it forward. It changes. It’s beautiful, and it’s also… the ephemeralness is
partially what the viewer, I think, is aware of. I’ve always been
really inspired by poetry, and I think that actually
drawing is like writing poetry. When we did
the piece at the MOMA, of course both the artists’
archives that I chose that we looked
at were both poets: Vito Acconci
and James Byers. That’s nice, books, open, breath blowing, blowing objects,
envelopes, sand, hover across the table,
blowing a pattern, flow, off a body, blowing it
off of my own body. I don’t make the
separation between drawing and photography and film. I draw really with the camera. To me they are all
coming from the same source. What is a drawing,
or what is a wall drawing? That changes, as you change, because you are
continually evolving.

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