Julie Keating explores our relationship with the past through meticulously painted representations of antique tools, implements and medical instruments.
The makers of these beautiful objects, often centuries old, lavished on them a care and concern for the aesthetic that belied the often gruesome or rough tasks to which they would be put. Now they have become objects for collectors, preserved as works of art and historical sentiment.
Using a restrained palette, Julie Keating presents these museum pieces with a lyrical dream-like quality. Floating almost imperceptibly against an anodyne background, they seem to ask to be picked up but not quite. The past puts them just out of reach; we no longer have the skill to use them; they can no longer fulfil their maker’s purpose; “museum pieces are not to be touched”.
But these tools are all we have left to represent innumerable acts of making and (surgical) unmaking.
Each painting on canvas is mounted on highly polished and warmly toned jarrah blocks, able to hang on a wall or stand on a flat surface. Evoking the finely made boxes in which these tools and implements were originally presented by their makers, they also warn us that today boxes preserve and protect what are now precious or cherished implements, adding yet another layer of prophylactic distance between the past and the present.
In Keating’s paintings all human activity may be seen as Art in one way or another.