29 Nov Keith Betts
Keith Betts was the winner of the Waterbrook Trendsetter Travel Prize for 2010 for ‘Growth’ and was a finalist in the 2011 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, the richest art prize in Australia and the richest portrait prize in the world, for his painting ‘The Inner Ear: Susan Blake with Gerard Willems’.
In 2012 his portrait of Karen Carey, ‘Always this Moment of Doubt’ was a finalist in the Black Swan Portrait Prize in Perth. In 2013 ‘Wozza, In Your Face’ was a semifinalist in the Moran Prize and in the 2014 Glencore Percival Portrait Prize in Townsville he had two portraits as finalists.
In the field of landscape he has been a finalist in the Mosman Art Prize and was awarded 2nd in the RAS Easter Show Prize for Landscape.
In 2014 he was a finalist in the Heysen Interpretation of Place Prize in Hahndorf, South Australia and also in the Norvill Prize, Murrurundi, NSW.
He has won numerous other prizes and awards in Sydney and throughout NSW for landscape painting and draftsmanship.
Painting is a static medium, so it must engage the viewer with its internal tensions, which may be compositional, thematic, tonal etc.
In my work, I try to place the viewer at a balancing point between what the eye sees (which is, at the level of the canvas, a confusion of paint strokes applied with a knife or a spatula) and what the brain tells them it should represent.
This is the pivot point I seek to create in my paintings: the point where the myriad abstract elements that, in themselves, depict nothing, coalesce on the canvas to suggest something approaching a shared perception of the natural world, the landscape we find ourselves in.
Sometimes there is an actual physical point at which this occurs for me while painting as I step back from the canvas, just as it is for the viewer: the point at which confused marks suddenly begin to ‘make sense’.
It is tempting to think of this as a kind of alchemy: marks in oil on canvas that trick the eye into seeing something it recognizes but which isn’t really there. On the contrary though, I think the inspiration rests in the eye and mind of the viewer, in using the barest of reference points to discover a reality that is both elusive and illusory.
In this way I see these paintings less as faithful depictions (surely they are not that) than simply compositions which are ‘not inconsistent with’ whatever they seem to the viewer to depict. At the same time they continue to be just how they appear close up: a collection of marks on canvas poised on the line between confusion and coherence.