Zurich: Until 18 March 2023
Philipp Keel’s pictures are striking for their beauty, tension and humour. They are informed as much by chance as by perfection. Chance provides the motifs in an impassioned oeuvre that shows an almost guileful tendency towards abstraction. The photographs capture memories and moments that run the gamut between light and dark, movement and stasis, reflection and refraction. They locate feelings and lend them colour; they may sparkle with life or take a melancholy turn; they may be ironic and their subject matter selected with an eye for the absurd.
With curiosity and an almost child-like gaze, Keel makes beauty almost mystical. We are reminded of compositions by Jacques-Henri Lartigue and André Kertész or the play of shadow and colour in works by Irving Penn, but the painter David Hockney has also influenced the photographer’s work.
Keel’s photographs are not conceptual; every motif is a discovery. Their accidental quality and almost casual precision are indebted to a sense of wonder that reveals the madness and remarkability of the ordinary. His aesthetic is not smooth and impersonal; it is the result of an unusual detail, an axial shift or background depth. The moment is like an aquarelle on which one must stop working. We do not want to look at Philipp Keel’s pictures; we want to be part of them. Like palms, one of his favourite motifs, they are so very playful and at the same time unyielding.