John Keane’s Sites of Memory

John Keane’s If your Knew me, If you Knew Yourself, You Would Not Kill Me is featured at Flowers Gallery, and runs until 10 December. A series of paintings by the former official British War Artist will be on view, which were created in response to the commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, following Keane’s recent investigations of the country’s Sites of Memory, or Lieux de Mémoire.

The artist visited Rwanda in 2015 as part of the University of St Andrews, where he is currently Artist in Residence, and visited several of the locations around the country where more than 800,000 people were slaughtered, and to meet both survivors and perpetrators still behind bars. Throughout the Rwandan countryside there are many Sites of Memory, which serve as both official and informal public memorial to the victims, often in the form of human remains, personal possessions, or clothes in a stark reminder of the loss of humanity. It was from these sites that Keane drew his inspiration, working in response to the imagery of the sites Keane developed a body of work that reflects upon the importance of collective memory in the recovery of a society wrecked by war and conflict.

Keane continues his method of incorporating fabric into his paintings, a technique that he first developed during his time spent working in Southern Africa with Christian Air in projects of war-torn Angola. The present paintings feature items of clothing pressed into the canvas, creating a collage from brightly-printed materials; this practice works to produce a two-dimensional form, and a powerful reminder of the haunting absence of the human figure.

Keane has said: “During my visit to Rwanda I was deeply impressed by the way it has sought to come to terms with the appalling events of 1994. Partly this is through commemoration, which takes many forms, and does not seek to hide or shrink from the enormity of what happened”.

The exhibition runs from 4 November – 10 December at the Flowers Gallery.

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  1. John Keane If you Knew me, If you Knew Yourself (2015).