I work in a range of mediums and techniques. I have always been a figurative artist and when I was young, I taught myself how to draw through the study of comic book superheroes and drawing has always been there for me, even in dreams I have drawn. Through observing the human person and exploring the history of man from which I gain inspiration for many of my works. I look at the way the human-body moves within its environment, the way we interact with one another and especially the cultural and spiritual diversities that we each practice.
Through observation of those diversities, there is always an encyclopedia of visual material that I can use to create compositions of visual culture. The world has changed dramatically over the past hundred years; through large migrations of multi-cultured people. I think it’s refreshing to experience all these amazing cultures, their food, their music and especially their art.
While still a student at Rotorua Polytechnic Darren was the winner of the 1996 Waikato Gas Ceramic Awards. The award was published in New Zealand Potter volume 38 number 3 1996. Bruce Dehnert was the selector, which he wrote,
“I chose Darren Keith’s Night Life for the Premier Award. The piece is a bas-relief, rectangular in shape and has the immediate finish of heavy oxide washes. The worn slab’s corners curve out-ward from a spare wooden frame, the warpage of drying hasn’t been resisted. Human figures have been modelled with an ease of touch, the slightest gesture of clay representing a hip, elbow, breast. It’s a crowd scene with each figure vying for some one’s attention.
Keith makes either knowing or unknowing reference to Rodin’s Gates of hell, and in particular, the early clay models, c1880. Both artist employ a heavy vertical shape in the centres of their works where the conventions of narrative can gather around or, in a way, subject themselves to.
Keith’s modelling, in all its simplicity, makes possible a complex reading, especially as the work gains momentum from its top to its bottom. There is an interesting connection between the artist’s technique of direct and honest modelling and the ‘modelling’ or posturing of his subjects. In this case, the real-life narrative is reflected in the artistic process. While Rodin used ‘doubling’ to break narrative logic, Keith has kept matter variable and ambiguous so as to allow multiple narratives to be assumed.”
One of my passions is working within the medium of clay and in particular the raku process. The use of figurative forms in my clay constructions have always been an on going presence, I suppose they portray human rituals and create the connection between present and past, the way we have always shown stories or patterns on utilitarian objects, whether it’s a vessel or a cell-phone. The responsiveness of clay beneath my hands is deeply satisfying when married to the artistic concept or idea I am exploring. It is this process that ultimately informs the end result and leaves a visual path of creation for the viewer to follow.
Clay is a living organism and continues to live as an art form with both functional purpose or as sculptural beauty.