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Simon Keenleyside grew up, and continues to live in Essex, where he explores the suburban gardens, parks, woodland and playing fields. Unlike artists traditionally working with landscape in the great English tradition Keenleyside transforms his scenes into fantastic escapist backdrops which blend autobiographical memories with art historical references and contemporary culture.
Recent work has seen a shift beyond the enclosed garden into more open and wild territory, though the favoured locations are still familiar to the artist from childhood memories. The garden with its wealth of manufactured embellishment initially offered Keenleyside the opportunity to explore the notion of the painting as a means of escape from the everyday and a place to safely reflect and marvel. And in turn the paintings themselves marvel and astonish; presenting a transformed and fantastic landscape originating from a familiar British setting. New paintings include scenes close to Keenleyside's home in Essex; forests, BMX tracks from his youth, marshlands and Leigh Creek, a favorite seaside haunt as a child. The incongruities of the enchanted suburban scenes resonate through the artist's work; dark and comical, eccentric and bold, at points wry, but always captivating.
Working from his garden studio, Keenleyside often works on many paintings at once resulting in a sort of cross pollination; scenes mutate, are seen at different times of day or objects seen in one painting appear in another whilst particularly satisfying perspectives or vistas may often be returned to. The artist's command of the paint delights as much as his subjects and in recent years we have seen the paintings become looser and less restrained, allowing for the character of the paint to often take precedence. As such you discover areas of dribbles and washes next to thick impasto clumps where the paint essentially becomes the landscape. Though these areas of paintwork suggest a sense of abandon they are of course part of the highly developed formal arrangement of each painting and to a greater degree offer a link to the conceptual sophistication of Keenleyside's work. A refuge into the enchanting places of childhood memory, the artist's subjects like his technique, offer a place of freedom celebrated through the eyes of a knowing and judicious adult.
After studying for his BA at Brighton University Simon Keenleyside completed an MA in the painting department of the Royal College of Art. He has exhibited extensively throughout the UK and internationally in Italy, America and Denmark. In 2002 he won the BOC Emerging Artist Award and in 2004 he was the UK winner of the Lexmark European Art Prize. He has work in private and corporate collections that include The BOC Group, Comme des Garcons, Hiscox, Marsh Mclennan and Mario Testino collection.