The latest collection to arrive at Artbay is new works by award-winning Queenstown sculptor Tony O’Keefe. Tony is an ‘artist philosopher’ who combines his studies in biology, physics and industrial design to express ideas and identity through art.
He’s known for his use of recycled materials, particularly locally found steel. When you take home a Tony O’Keefe sculpture, quite often you’re taking home a piece of Central Otago history. He repurposes, recreates and fuses these old materials into new, beautiful and sometimes menacing forms.
Some of Tony’s recent works contain scraps from the demolished Remarkables Ski Area base building and decommissioned chairlifts. Ablaze, which is currently on show at Artbay’s main gallery (13 Marine Parade), is partly constructed from chairlift nuts.
“There’s a yard where chairlifts go to die. I’m lucky they let me rummage,” says Tony.
“I’m a collector, I put a lot of things away in boxes and occasionally I’ll pull them out and do something with it. With [Ablaze], I started playing with these like Tetris, placing them together so that they looked like a flame or blaze. […] there’s hundreds of welds in this piece. I enjoy taking inflexible, mechanical materials and turning them into an organic form or shape.”
Another piece in Tony’s latest collection at Artbay Gallery is Chrysippus and the Web. The Artbay Gallery team have picked that this will go to a very special buyer who will truly connect with this piece’s philosophical and spiritual themes. The hand, made from pipes and finished with a touch of gold, has been sitting in Tony’s garage for almost nine months.
“I was never quite sure what I was going to do with it, then this happened spontaneously. Chrysippus was a Greek stoic philosopher and one of the first to suggest that the universe might not be spherical, but cylindrical.”
Tony says the piece, which is a mixture of recycled mild iron, metals and a Madagascar gabbro rock, was a “real indulgence” piece. Made with little planning and plentiful ideas, fantasy and creativity.
Other notable new pieces include figurines; a theme Tony is already well-known for. A number of them are made from a 1940’s era rusted pram Tony found near Arrow Junction.
Queue depicts figures with undefined, solemn faces waiting in a tightly-packed line, evoking that uncomfortable feeling of being close to people you don’t know and waiting, waiting, waiting…
“What’s on the other side of the door? Well, that’s the ambiguity… it could be the door to the afterlife or a Justin Bieber concert!”
Conversation embodies an important feature of Tony’s sculptures – the ability for the viewer to do more than simply look at an artwork. The bottoms and feet of the two sitting figures are magnetic, enabling the ‘viewer’ to pick up and reposition the artwork according to their setting, mood or whims.
“I really like people to touch my artworks. These sculptures do not take finger prints or break or anything like that. Steel is dense stuff.”
All of Tony’s artworks are made using traditional blacksmith methods and polished using linseed, rather than chemical-based products. They’re not suitable for outdoor exhibition, but will look great in an office or home, particularly if polished occasionally with a good bees’ wax.
You can see more of Tony’s work here, or visit 13 Marine Parade to see this collection which will be on display until 24th December 2017.