Terry Fenton


TERRENCE KELLER (b. 1947) is an abstract painter from Edmonton, Canada whose work has developed steadily for some 30 years. Today he is one of the finest -- albeit least recognized -- painters of his generation. To the best of my knowledge he is unrepresented by an art dealer and is little known outside of his home city, which is at the fringes of the art world and not sufficiently exotic to attract art visitors.

His manner is unique and immediately recognizable. His paintings have an untidy air, which may account for thier initial difficulty. They belong to the tradition of all over painting, with roots in the analytical cubism of Picasso and Braque, and more recently with Jackson Pollock, Jules Olitski, and the Larry Poons of the '70s and '80s. They offer a kind of disheveled cubism, as though the elements of painting -- brush strokes, scrapes, and spatters -- had somehow collapsed into place, but their structure remains firmly in place, like a natural stone wall.

Untitled, 2000. Acrylic on canvas, app. 4 x 5 ft.

Keller has his own way with color. It isn't a matter of one kind of color, although it exploits earth colors and grays. Saturated hues tend to be set up and then canceled or muted by close-valued neutrals (exemplified in the reproduction above). His color seems never to come straight from the paint box, yet seems invariably right for each picture. A jazz musician once remarked that Count Basie had an uncanny ability to pick the right tempos; Keller seems to have a similar gift for the right colors: they never call attention to themselves, but always fit the picture.

Untitled, 2000. Acrylic on canvas, app. 2 1/2 x 7 ft.

His formats consist primarily of traditional squarish rectangles (which tend to be somewhat cubist in orientation) and long, horizontal rectangles. In the first, the horizontal and vertical coordinates tend to imply a grid upon which the painting falls into place. In the second, the rectangle itself maintains surface tension, allowing a more casual organization, often exploiting a repeated diagonal motif.

Despite these general characteristics, each of Keller's paintings insists and succeeds on its own terms. There's little carryover of organization from one picture to the next, which may explain why his art is so under appreciated.

Untitled, 2000. Acrylic on canvas, app. 3 x 1 1/2 ft.

-- Terry Fenton. August, 2000