My work has been described as Pop Surrealism. Certainly both Pop Art and Surrealism, along with Lowbrow Art and Comic Book Art have influenced my vision, which is essentially serious. The signed, limited edition size is 25.
Iniitally inspired by the work of Pollock, Francis Bacon and Freud at The Walker Gallery in his native Liverpool, O’Keefe studied painting at Chester Art College followed by Camberwell School of Art.
Uncomfortable with the painterly style expounded by his tutors, he developed a more linear graphic style, condensing highly personal narratives into systems of symbols and devices. Earlier influences being replaced by a heady concoction of Pop Art luminaries - Hamilton,Warhol and Allen Jones to name but a few – with Otto Dix and George Grosz also in evidence.
Oil paint on canvas consequently became surplanted by screen printing and 3-dimentional objects. The personal expressed through extraordinary constructions such as ‘The Kissing Booth’ replete with glowing red lips and ‘Bordello scene’ a dimly lit box containing twisted Barbie dolls viewed through peep holes.
After college, O’Keefe quickly found his feet creating comic strips and cartoons for the thriving underground press of the mid-seventies, producing work for titles such as Oz, International Times, Private Eye, Punch and Mayfair. Highly in demand as an illustrator, he also undertook a variety of commissions for the record industry and various animation studios.
Partly as a consequence of the computerisation of the design industry in the early nineties and his growing frustration with working to a brief, O’Keefe returned to his Fine Art roots, producing edgy critiques on the trials and tribulations of life. His current output, (shown in successive years at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition) introduces an eclectic cast of characters and inanimate objects. Planes, film stars, fried eggs and fat gentlemen are employed like some bizarre repertory company in the service of O’Keefe’s everchanging and complex narratives.
Composed in a layered technique (similar to theatrical back drops) his compositions beguile the viewer with their picture book colours and skillful draughtsmanship. At times surreal and at others violent, he charts his sub conscious with humour and pathos freely plundering an age of visual culture from Mr Hulot to Tom and Jerry.
In response to demands for elucidation, O’Keefe would direct you towards the poet Wallace Stevens who said of his own work: ‘...things that have their origin in the imagination or in the emotions very often take on a form that is ambiguous or uncertain. It is not possible to attach a single, rational meaning to such things without destroying the imaginative or emotional ambiguity or uncertainty that is inherent in them and that is why poets do not like to explain. That the meanings given by others are sometimes meanings not intended by the poet or that were never present in his mind does not impair them as meanings.’