Estate of Jeff Keen
Exploding Head, 1978
Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle 260 luster paper
16 x 12 inches (40.6 x 30.5 centimeters)
Edition of 25
©Jeff Keen / Estate of Jeff Keen / 2020.
Artist and film-maker Jeff Keen was one of the great figures of the British postwar avant-garde. Keen's work embodies a wild spirit of anarchic play, a fascination with surrealism, and a love of popular culture.
After being drafted into National Service during WWII, he studied for a short time at Chelsea School of Art and Design, after which he moved to Brighton (UK) where he lived and worked until his death.
Jeff Keen 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). In Keen's films, innovative techniques of film construction and transmission – collage, animation, found footage, hand-altered film stock, multiple screen projections – that sought to expand cinema beyond its conventional limits 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. These innovations and influences also find their way into Keen's boundary-pushing work in other media, from drawing, painting and assemblage to ground-breaking experiments in the development of sound as an artistic medium. A manic universe of creation and violent destruction, Keen's art powerfully describes the frenetic, global world of post-war Western society.
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), Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (UK), Viper Festival for International Film and Video (Switzerland) and London Film Festival (UK). Keen's work is included in multiple private and public collections, including the British Artists' Film & Video Study Collection (UK), Face Press Collection (UK) and Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (UK).