Shelagh Keeley: Workers’ Pavilion, Shanghai, China 2009

Shelagh Keeley’s new work Workers’ Pavilion is located on the exterior walls of the tea room in Cao Yang Park, Shanghai. It consists of gold filling in the cracks and other flaws of the white painted surfaces. Years of use and exposure have resulted in an everyday abstraction that is enhanced by the artist. It is as if some alchemy has occurred, transforming unremarkable marks into a shimmering configuration, catching the light as we move around and through the architecture.

Keeley does not invent a formal composition on this occasion. She takes her cues absolutely from the effects of weather and other natural phenomena, wear and tear, and other human traces. She is celebrating this building and what it means for the residents of Cao Yang. The activity of painting is like an act of restoration but not to make imperfections invisible. This is not like some cosmetic surgery, but rather a highlighting of signs of age. Like the wrinkles in the faces of the people here, full of character, they affect us because we ourselves are not immune to entropic processes. Keeley’s Workers’ Pavilion is a portrait of a real place, in real time.

Jonathan Watkins

Director, Ikon Gallery

Birmingham, UK