Orange Jumpsuits

Orange Jumpsuits

War, conflict and violence have been themes in John Keane’s work for 30 years.

He was a war artist during the Gulf War in 1991 and has continued to explore these issues through his work in the years since that experience.

In 2015-16, he worked on a series of paintings focused on imagery connected to Islamic State and the murders of those it held captive.

It felt “intensely important” to him to create a work touching on these themes but he was sensitive to using the imagery without resorting to “graphic horror”. 

The series of six paintings - Float, Fall, Bound, Kneel, Jump, and Confess- depict an orange jumpsuit in poses suggestive of the positions of the prisoners who were held captive.Bound is on display as part of Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11 at IWM London, which explores how artists have responded to conflicts since 9/11.

When he first showed works from the series, he was surprised at some of the reactions people had to them.

“One thing that surprised me, the big jumpsuit paintings, many people saw Guantanamo before they saw the ISIS thing which is interesting…that it still had that resonance…I think it’s always good that things aren’t too obvious, that there’s room for nuance and subtlety and ambivalence as well,” he said.

Although his working methods have changed and developed over the years, some things about his work have remained constant.

“I think my preoccupations have remained the same. I mean my preoccupation is basically why do people, how do people, justify killing other human beings in pursuit of some idea, some politics or some religion to make the world supposedly a better place while in fact making it so much worse.”

Bound was on display at IWM London as part of Age of Terror: Art since 9/11 between 26 October 2017 - 28 May 2018

Image: Bound, 2015 © John Keane. Image courtesy Flowers Gallery London and New York.

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