I've been following Andy Kehoe's work for a while now, and while there was something intriguing about it that I couldn't put my finger on, I hadn't completely fallen for it until last night. Following a link from the Juxtapoz blog, I discovered a new piece that Andy had painted for his February 29th show at Green Lantern Gallery in Chicago called "The Safest Place in the World."
Andy says that this show is about death and the fear of death, and perhaps that's why "Helplessly Ensnared by Murky Mysteries" captivates me. There is a quality of atmosphere to this painting that I hadn't noticed before in Andy's work. Part of that depth comes from its richness of color, which might be attributed to this being one of his first experiments with blending acrylics and oils.
Apart from this new painting, my favorite of his pieces is the remarkable "Finding Hope Here in the Clearing." In Andy's world, this strange flower-bedecked stag-man seems to represent Hope, and is generally accompanied by a little black dog. (Or perhaps Hope is the little black dog?) The composition of this painting is so compelling, and the connection between these two creatures seems so real, that for me, this piece works on a higher emotional plane than much of his work, which can sometimes seem somewhat chilly and remote.
Here is another of the Hope paintings, not quite as dramatically framed as the first one, but still beautiful and emotive, "Hope Rests in Quiet Fields."
Despite the apparent tranquility of the Hope paintings, many of Andy Kehoe's works are quite ominous, even violent. Certainly this empty-eyed man – whose face seems to have been eaten by some kind of black reindeer moss – means you no good as he pulls a pistol from his jacket. According to the title, this is one of those "Sanctioned Marauders." He wants to take something from you. On his lapel is a blue leaf that signifies something... perhaps a badge of power, a symbol of money? Is he a Tax Man? These impenetrable qualities invite endless speculation.
In "Conquering Giants," a shaggy horned man, perhaps the same one being held underwater in "Murky Mysteries," has climbed above the forest canopy to slay some huge elemental creature or forest god with his tiny pistol. Will the creature succumb?
Even Hope is not immune to the depredations of these violent men, as we see in "Assassination of Hope Fails Again." Let us hope that Hope always prevails.
Andy's chilly, autumnal world is red in tooth and claw, inhabited by strange forest gods and demi-gods, as well as savage avatars of war, patriotism, and government regulation that spread danger, madness and fear – yet it is counterbalanced by the tenacious survival of humanity, truth, love and optimism in the face of all that loneliness, despair and death.
In fact, Andy Kehoe's work seems a worthy mirror of our world today.