Aesthetica Art Prize Winner and Judge: John Keane

Aesthetica Art Prize Winner and Judge: John Keane

Artist John Keane will be part of the judging panel for the 2016 edition of the Aesthetica Art Prize. Keane was shortlisted in 2015 for the Art Prize exhibition at York St Mary’s, and was selected as the Main Prize Winner with his paintings from the Fear series.

Keane was born in Hertfordshire in 1954 and attended Camberwell School of Art. His work has focused on many of the most pressing political questions of our age, and he came to national prominence in 1991 when he was appointed as official British war artist during the Gulf War.

His work has always been deeply concerned with conflict – military, political and social – in Britain and around the world and his subjects have included Northern Ireland, Central America, and the Middle East, sometimes working with organisations such as Greenpeace and Christian Aid. More recent subject matter has addressed difficult topics relating to religiously inspired terrorism such as Guantanamo Bay, the Moscow theatre siege, and home-grown acts of violence against civilians.

In recent years he has also become known for commissioned portraits of notable individuals such as Mo Mowlam, John Snow and Kofi Annan. This year he has also created a well received film for Benjamin Britten’s Canticle III in a theatrical production commissioned by Aldeburgh Music and the Brighton Festival. He lives and works in London.

The paintings from the Fear series, selected for the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition 2015, draw on images from the great Stalinist terror of the 1930s. They are sourced from mug shots of arrested victims (some well known, some anonymous) at a time when when no-one, from the top of the Bolshevik hierarchy to the humblest worker, was safe from accusation of sabotage or political deviation.

Keane has attempted in this series to tease out the essence of that most fundamental driver of human emotion that can usually be found at the root of all violence – fear. In that time of extremes, those who fell foul of authority could expect a bullet in the back of the head, but whilst these paintings refer to a specific and extraordinarily terrifying moment in modern history, the allusions are to a universal human emotion which determines behaviour in all walks of life, whether it relates to community, corporation, religion or state.

To see more of John Keane’s work visit and

The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries until 31 August. For more information and to enter, visit

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1. Fear No. 191037, 2013 © John Keane, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York