Projects Women I've Shot

Women Who Create
This is Olivié Keck

Women Who Create is an ongoing portraiture project all shot in B&W in my studio in Woodstock, Cape Town. I love to connect with other creatives, see what motivates them and find out what is behind their work.

I met Olivié in about 2015 in ceramics class at Frank Joubert art school in Cape Town. She was busy, at that time, working on the giant piece below: “Script Kitty”. It probably stands about 65 cm high. I nervously helped her carry the kitty into the kiln for its very last firing in 2016. It’s beautiful.

Olivié is a drawer, an illustrator and a ceramicist. She also does prints and creative collaborations. I love that she describes herself as a ‘mass romantic’.

From Olivié:

“I relish loud colours, juxtaposing ideas, jumbled associations and subverting expectations. There’s a ‘pleasure spiked with pain’ feeling about the work I make. This is a sensation I feel captures my experience of the world. Humans are never fully in one attitude; and I’d like to think my work echoes both the severity and the humor in this sentiment.”

Olivié Keck (b.1989) lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. She received her BFA from The Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2011.

 “Keck’s work is a contemporary homage to the ‘commonplace’ narratives that her subjects portray. She relishes loud colours, graphic forms, juxtaposing ideas, parody and subverting expectations. The aesthetics of her work commemorates the theatre of human experience, whilst echoing her fascination with popular culture, intimacy and contemporary story-telling.”

Below is a Proust-like interview with Olivié:

Why do you create?

I create because I see in pictures what I can’t explain in words.

What is your motto? 

‘Sometimes you gotta risk it for a biscuit’ 

What is your most treasured possession?

I treasure all the things in my home that have been handmade or given to me by friends and loved ones. All the memories imbued in objects that surround me with the sensation of being connected to people. They are my little flagships of joy spotted all over my home.

My art collection is especially close to my heart. Some of the artworks that adorn my walls include pieces by Jean De Wet, Mia Chaplin, Danielle Clough, Andrew Sutherland and Cecil Skotnes. All of which I consider amazing artists and special humans.

My postcard collection. I love a gift shop keepsake and I have always loved keeping postcards from places I’ve visited, art museums with artworks I love or weird little nooks in the world I’ve discovered. I have a huge wall of postcards I’ve collected or have been sent by friends on their travels. It’s a bit of a cliché I guess, but it’s my personal 2D museum.

A quilt made by my mother, which is very special to me and has all the nurturing and wholesome characteristics I associate with her.

When you’re in your ultimate creative space what word would you use to describe the experience?


What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m a bit of a hoarder especially when it comes to art materials. I think it’s a compulsion that is both my best and my worst trait.

Sometimes I’m happy that I hold on to things and try to find a use for them or try to use every last bit, but it means I always have bits and pieces of stuff everywhere which can get overwhelming. I also hate wasting stuff, so I think that’s why I keep every last drop, which makes me every bit as frustrating to live with as you are imagining.

What do you get huge satisfaction out of doing apart from your primary creative outlet?

Weirdly I find cleaning quite therapeutic. I know most people hate it, but I find it to be an act of renewal. Like getting to start over – a reset button. There is something deeply cathartic in getting out the vacuum and sucking up all the dusky residue of yesterday’s ‘you’.  Sometimes if I’m feeling stuck on a creative problem I’ll get out a cloth, wipe down a surface or a floor just to unlock that dopamine of accomplishment.

I really enjoy gardening and planting vegetables. Nature is an inspiration and because I grew up in a farm-like setting, working in the garden always takes me back to being a kid planting things with my mother.

Puzzle making is another satisfying activity that feels trivial but fills me with moment-to moment thrills. It is a great activity to do alone or with a friend. During the quarantine of Covid-19 it has really taken a hold of me. I can spend hours and hours on it. Looking through this list it seems like I’m getting ready for retirement, just need to get into bingo and I’m made!

Do you have pet peeves?

My industry pet peeve, if I’m being REALLY candid, maybe too candid, I find it frustrating how some people, not all, but some, automatically expect discounts when purchasing artwork. It’s a major bug bear for me.

I know it’s not just me, it happens frequently to artists all over. It seems to be an accepted industry standard in the art arena. Like there’s some golden rule stating that artists’ always overvalue their work by at least 10% and therefore one should never pay the asking price. Purchasing an artwork with a conditional discount is like giving someone a compliment and an insult at the same time.

It’s different if it’s a frequent buyer, someone that has supported your career time and again, if the person has earnt that privilege, but when a fresh kid on the block wants to haggle – that’s straight up shameless.

Personally, I think it undermines any artist’s self-worth and the role of the artist as a legitimate profession in society. It’s a trope that rewards misers and I wish people wouldn’t do it. There I said it out loud. If you didn’t know, now you know.

What is/are your greatest extravagance/s?

Hands-down this title goes to my two Italian greyhounds, Wendy Horsecraft and Avon Barksdale. They are ridiculous creatures, I’m not even sure they are dogs…sometimes I think they might be proof aliens exist. But damn I love them and lavish them unashamedly.

Your greatest fear?

Being homeless and destitute. I have a distinct memory of this fear manifesting as a young kid when my dad past away. I felt for the first time that I could lose someone or some huge facet of my life overnight. I remember this feeling being really intense for years, I would have nightmares about it all the time. Horrible situations of destitution. I have this sensation less as an adult but every now and then I still have waves of this deep-seated anxiety come up for me in conscious and subconscious states.

What do you think is overrated?

Celebrity Culture. Our society is so obsessed with celebrities or becoming a celebrity. A country like America is probably the best example of how this phenomenon, this obsession, has wreaked their society and warped their value system.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I say the word ‘crazy’ and ‘wild’ a lot as emphatic words. I annoy myself with it, because it feels like I don’t use enough adjectives in my speech. It’s my fall-back exclamation phrase, but it’s become such a habit. It’s my verbal crutch.

What does your (physical) creative space look like?

My studio has a bit of a split personality. I have different areas for different moods. I have a desk on both sides of the room and a large window that looks out over the mountain and the lagoon  next to my house. I feel very lucky to have such a tranquil and light space to work in.

The walls of my studio are filled with sketches and scribbled ideas or spark notes on paper and inspirational references. I have some of my work that I’ve kept up on walls to keep me company. There are pockets of colour and pattern everywhere and a picture rail that I curate with work I am busy making or have made.

My dogs are always in my studio while I work. They love lying on my couch in the sun that comes in through the windows and in winter the heater keeps us all warm.

What defines your idea of happiness?

I think I am living my idea of happiness right now. I work hard, but I am free to make the things I want to and keep my own hours. I’ve arrived at a really special time in my life where I have the support of an amazingly talented network of friends and loved ones that help me navigate my creative and emotional challenges. I feel at peace with my process and the kind of artist I think I am. I feel lucky every day I get to be an artist. I think it’s important not to see happiness as a place you’ll arrive at one day, happiness is more what you make of it and I try to enjoy the moment to moment as much as possible.

Keck’s solo exhibitions included; ‘False Priest’ (2014) at Commune1, ‘Selfie Fulfilling Prophecy’ (2016) at David Krut Projects, ‘The Lure’ (2018) at Chandler House ,‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ (2019) at CIRCA/Everard Read and ‘In Bloom’(2020) with 131A Gallery. Keck has attended two international art residences; The Kala Art Institute (2016 Berkeley/USA) and The Frans Masereel Centrum (2017 Antwerp/Belgium). She has exhibited internationally with No Man’s Art Gallery in Tehran and The Kala Art Institute in Berkeley/USA. Her work has been featured numerous times at art fairs such as CTAF, JAF and Turbine Art Fair.

Find her Instagram profile here.