Preview: 15 January 2016, 6-8:30 pm
Hales Gallery is delighted to announce Rayday Film, a solo exhibition celebrating the Jeff Keen’s iconic film in the important context of his multidisciplinary practice. The exhibition runs in conjunction with Jeff Keen, The Cartoon Theatre of Dr Gaz, to be on view at Kate MacGarry, London. Both exhibitions will preview on 15 January 2016.
Jeff Keen was a poet, artist and pioneering experimental film-maker, working across and combining media and genres to forge his singular, subversive and highly influential perspective. He was an important contributor to the countercultural scene in Britain, participating in literary happenings and other events at the renowned ‘Better Books’ on Charing Cross Road, as well as co-founding the London Film-makers Co-op (now merged with London Video Arts to form LUX). However, his resolutely individual take on the medium’s cross-generic possibilities always remained on the fringes of the purely formalist avant-garde canon of experimental film. In Keen’s films, innovative techniques of film construction and transmission (including collage, animation, found footage, superimposed and hand-altered film stock, and multiple screen projections) are explored within the context of a diverse array of influences. These range from archetypal mythologies and the art historical movements of surrealism and romanticism to popular contemporary culture, particularly comic books and Hollywood B-movies, resulting in works which powerfully describe the frenetic, global world of post-war Western society. Defying the boundaries of genre and category, Keen’s art bears testament to the presence of an extraordinary creative universe and of a highly perceptive, radical voice contributing to the narratives of film and twentieth century art history.
Keen’s seminal work Rayday Film (1968-70, 1976) was originally presented at the 1970 ‘First International Underground Film Festival’ with multi-screen projections and live-action performance before being condensed into a 16mm film in 1976. It takes its title from the magazine, Amazing Rayday, created by the artist in 1962 to explore the fringe world of comic book art which he found so compelling for its evocation of a graphical universe outside the world of bourgeois ‘high’ art. Indeed, the aesthetic and vernacular of the comic-book universe is central to Rayday Film, evoked in the film’s graphic style and frenetic action as well as a cast of superhero and villain-style characters, illustrations and onomatopoeic language in classic cartoon typography.
An assault on the senses, visual and auditory, Rayday Film immerses the viewer in its manic world of creation and violent destruction. Film becomes the site of an expansive and disorderly collage chaotically uniting the varied elements of Keen’s creative universe. In Rayday Film, the viewer is presented with a barrage of comics, drawings, poetry and text, photography, plastic toys (often burning), graffiti, animation, costumed live-action performance and sound, cut together at rapid speed. A proliferation of images, characters and action do nothing to contribute to a sense of coherent cinematic narrative, instead fulfilling Keen’s desire to expand cinema, pushing the medium beyond its conventional framing limits. The exhibition at Hales Gallery places the work in an immersive environment, displaying it alongside paintings and sculptural objects as well as never-before-seen archival documentation photographic artworks created by Keen during the film-making process, presenting Keen’s film within the context of his vision of an expanded multimedia cinema.
Jeff Keen, Rayday Film, Hales Gallery, Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA
Jeff Keen,The Cartoon Theatre of Dr Gaz, Kate MacGarry, 27 Old Nichol Street, E2 7HR (2 minute walk)
Jeff Keen (1923-2012) was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. After studying for a short time on a Commercial Art course at Chelsea, he was drafted into National Service during WWII, after which he moved to Brighton where he lived and worked until his death. Keen’s work has recently been the subject of two retrospectives: Shoot the Wrx, Artist and Filmmaker Jeff Keen at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (UK) and Gazwrx: The Films of Jeff Keen at the BFI, Southbank, London (UK). A major installation, Gazapocalypse – Return to the Golden Age, took place in the Tanks at Tate Modern in September 2012. Selected exhibitions, screenings and performances include those at the Trondheim Kunstmuseum (Norway), Tate Britain (UK), Fabrica (UK), Better Books (UK), the Serpentine Gallery (UK), Viper Festival for International Film and Video (Switzerland) and London Film Festival (UK).
Image: Miss Rayday Film (detail) photo: Jeff Keen