Artist returns to Crystal Palace
In 2010, Pat Keay had no doubt about which part of London she wanted to return to, when she sat in her sunny Nairobi garden, contemplating her husband’s new college job and an imminent lifestyle change.
Many years earlier, she, daughter Rachel, and husband-to-be, Chris, left their lovely flat on Church Road, and headed off to Kenya. Both had teaching posts, (Pat teaching Art & Design, Chris Physics) at an International School called Hillcrest, in Nairobi. Their grand plan was to complete a two year contract; they stayed 21 years, having bought property, set up a studio, had another daughter, got married, built a home on Kenya’s beautiful coast, Pat having had numerous exhibitions and, after 10 years, Chris being made head of Hillcrest. Theirs was a great life, with many adventures, and a few tragedies. As Pat told a friend once, ‘the most dramatic, frightening and wonderful things have happened to our family in this country. It will be very difficult to leave’.
But leave they did, at least for the time being. Rachel remained for a year in Nairobi, now lives in Oxford and is a P.R. consultant for Kenyan tourist projects, and Joanna is at university in Oxford. Chris started work as Vice-Principal at his new college, and Pat looked around for her own projects. The first was to buy a flat in Tudor Road, then find a studio, which she did at Park Hall in West Dulwich, and to continue with her painting. She also started volunteering at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
For two decades, Pat had celebrated the light, colours, shadows, spaces and trees of Kenya in her pictures. She had become well-known on the Kenyan art-scene, working in Nairobi’s ‘National Gallery’, RaMomA, with artists, teachers, street kids, and school groups. Pat had many exhibitions, both at her studio, commercial galleries and RaMoMA, and when not painting for exhibitions, worked on art commissions. Her studio at Watamu, where the family home now is, remains established and ready to work in on her frequent trips to her other home.
Pat was born in Scotland, graduated from Edinburgh College of Art, and regularly visits her country of origin. A few years ago, she scheduled an exhibition with the Edinburgh gallery who represent her, the Torrance Gallery, for March 2011. When she agreed to it, she had no idea she would be sending work from London, not Nairobi! The show ended up being a deliberate mixture of paintings from Kenya and work done in London. After it was over, Pat decided to tackle the challenge of depicting London urban and Scottish rural scenes in a more abstract style. She kick-started the process with a working holiday on a friends’ farm in Scotland, where she defined her artistic objective to push her work in a new direction, working with the very different daylight and atmosphere of British ‘placescapes’. Her pictures of Dulwich from her 3rd floor studio have attracted attention, and one has just won an art competition in East Dulwich.
The owners of The Scarf Gallery in Church Road offered Pat a show in 2012. The Crystal Palace circle is now complete! Returning to this unique enclave of South London was an instinctive reaction based on a love of its views, architecture, shops, restaurants, ‘artiness’ and its buzz. It was definitely the right decision for Pat.
"As a painter, my influences have been the Scottish Colourists, for breaking colour rules, Bonnard , for breaking those of perspective, and Matisse, for dispensing with all the rules! My two decades in Kenya influenced my fascination with light and shade, and forced me to consider ways of creating mood, atmosphere and a ‘ sense of place’ on the picture plane. This challenge endures in the development of my work.
Since returning to London and Scotland, my visions are altered by urban ambience, the dizzy city views of my studio, and contrasting place-scapes in Scotland. Trees remain an essential visual ingredient, as do patterns in still life, and unusual composition in all genres.
My journeys continue"...