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thomas@thomaskeyes.co.uk

Update

All efforts now towards Dark Mountain Issue 12, Sanctum. As much style as can possibly be packed into a book, updates soon. Below, world's largest illumination (on a red deer stag instead of the usual calf), took ages!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Principio Erat Verbum, traditional insular and graffiti pigments on vellum, 2017.

 

 

Previous Artist’s statement

My work is an exploration of my physical and cultural relationship with the land using materials foraged from my surroundings and processes historically grounded in the space I inhabit. The birch tree provides sap in spring, edible leaves to midsummer with wood, bark and tar throughout the year as well as perennial mushrooms such as fomes fomentarius which was found in the possession of 4000 year old otzi the iceman and was still in recorded use in church rituals through to the 18th century in Ireland. The fire lighting capability of this tree and its associated fungi helped our ancestors to colonise Northern Europe. The roe deer is one of few animals never to be tamed that has also adapted to live alongside humans. I am fascinated by their ghost like ability to melt into shadows and thread their lives through our movements without detection. Historically their bones turn up mainly in ecclesiastical sites where they may have been preferred for their pious reputation. The creation of a piece begins with the acquisition of a deer carcass, usually as road kill which I then dismember for meat, sinews and skin. I make the skins into parchment using techniques unchanged since the time of the Celtic monasteries. To build up an image I distil tar from the bark of birch trees while smoking the skin with birch wood to give a range of browns using a technique I’ve invented, the natural qualities of the skin in conjunction with the smoke capture the essence of the birch woods and the deer’s place within it. The resulting work could be described as landscape painting or wildlife art but for me its the physical result of a journey into nature, not as an observer but as a dependent participant. This path has drawn me into insular manuscript illumination and I am now finding my early career as a graffiti writer and my knowledge as a parchment maker useful in gaining an understanding of how to decipher this complex style and work with the temperamental materials of the early celtic scribes.