Five Questions for Keith Coventry

Words by Keven Amfo

19 June 2020


One of the great living British artists, Keith Coventry’s work analyses everyday realities through a modernist lens. Since his first solo show in 1992, his work has been shown worldwide and is housed in the collections of prestigious museums such as MoMA and Tate Modern. He founded and ran a not-for-profit gallery, called City Racing, in Kennington for a decade, and in 2010 received the John Moores painting prize.

Ahead of his 17th March studio visit (for Quintessentially’s Art Patrons), he answers a few questions about his storied career and the meaning behind his seemingly simple works.

KA: You’ve had many successes and explored many facets of the art world during your nearly 30-year-long career. Looking back from where you are today, is there something specific that you consider your ‘defining moment’?

KC: My defining moment was when I accepted the parameters of my interests, and acknowledged the freedom this gave me to explore them within their narrow confines.

In the past you’ve spoken at length about your fascination with modernism, the art movement that has encouraged innovation and breaking from tradtion—while often depicting myriad interpretations of daily life. Do you feel your work is more about art history, or a personal history?

I think it’s more about my personal history, but it doesn't look overtly that way because its shaped by my interest in the history of modernist art.

Your work is quite unique in that it manages to feel new and current, whilst still paying homage in some way to the past. Why is it important for you to marry old and new in your art?

If everything was new without any art history, it would be naive or outsider art. So an experience of the achievements of others is needed to make new work more sophisticated.

At first glance, much of your work doesn’t look political—but given your contemporary subject manner, such as the Monarchy and public housing, it could be considered so. Are messages and meanings intentionally hidden in your work?

My work has never been political, as I have only tried to show an ambivalence to my subject matter—and I hope it is viewed in that way.

Although your work is quite serious, you seem to have a great sense of humour—how do you balance the two things?

Maybe trying to do something serious is actually what could lead to making it turn out humorous…

To join Keith’s studio visit, or learn more about the Art Patrons membership, contact us here.

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