Phil Keers (b. 1994) is a visual artist living and working in Belfast, where he is based in Flax Art Studios. His work is multi-disciplinary, mainly taking the form of sculpture, performance, and installation art and has exhibited both nationally and internationally.
He had a yearlong residency at Belfast School of Art within the Sculpture Lens area of Fine Art, having graduated from Ulster University with a BA in Fine Art in 2018.
In 2019, Keers was awarded a travel award by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, to take part in a week-long performance art festival, Rebel Live Action #3 ECO ART, in Bangkok Thailand.
His recent solo exhibition, 'Cut It Out' at Pollen Studios and Gallery, Belfast, aimed to summarise an ongoing project within the performance element of Keers’ practice; deconstructing and examining language used in a derogatory or inflammatory way and questioning why they are still part of common vocabularies today.
My work is primarily mixed media sculpture, often with incorporated sound elements. In recent years I became increasingly interested in text-based art forms. This has manifested itself in my sculptural work and through experimenting in performance-based practice.
In my text sculptures I draw inspiration from both platonic and romantic relationships in my life. I respond to how it feels to be LGBTQIA+ in Northern Ireland today. Certain themes have sometimes been politically driven because of this. In my work I have attempted to make a statement about such topics as marriage equality and the patriarchal societal system.
I am fascinated by the origins of words, double meanings, and homophones. In my sculptures I try to harness this fascination, creating letters, forming words that change when looked at from an alternative direction; for there is always another way to look at things. My practice considers conceptual themes, investigating gender, sexuality, human emotion, and religion.
In my performance work I am currently focused on language that I find toxic and outdated. Words that have been hi-jacked and are used to cause upset and therefore pull focus from their original meaning or intended use. Bringing these words to the forefront to highlight their misuse and to also try to take a proud new ownership over them rendering them harmless. Our choice of language is so important. We must have a certain word to refer to something for us to have a conversation about it. We need to place something in a metaphorical box to try to begin to understand it. However, I find that as we begin to learn more; certain words become outdated or redundant, and it is important for everyone to then update their vocabulary and to take things out of the box that they no longer belong in.
A common theme in all areas of my practice, has been a promotion of mental health awareness. This stems from but is not exclusively linked to, my LGBTQIA+ experience in NI. From mid-2019 to present, I have been creating a body of work consisting of “Notes to Self” placards, which attempt to promote positivity at their core.
September 2015 – June 2018
B.A. Fine Art (with first class honours) at Ulster University, Belfast.
September 2012 - June 2013
Level 3 BTEC Foundation Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Awards and Commissions //
October 2019 – Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Travel Award to Thailand.
10th October 2019 – Belfast School of Art, Ulster University. Performance and Installation for World Mental Health Day.
August 2018 – Stendhal Festival, Limavady. On-site Sculptural Installation.
Solo Performances //
14th-19th October 2019
Solo performance as part of Rebel Live Action - ECO ART, Bangkok Thailand. Work shown: "Nurture Nature"
10th October 2019
Solo performance for World Mental Health Day, at Belfast School of Art. Work shown: "State of Mind"
7th September 2019
Collaborative solo performance as part of RE-VISION performing arts festival 2019, at the Accidental Theatre, Belfast. Work shown: "Grow a Pear"
1st August 2019
Solo performance as part of August Late Night Art, at The 343 studios, Belfast. Work shown: “Needs Must”.
7th March 2019
Solo performance as part of March Late Night, at Pollen Studios and Gallery, Belfast.
Work shown: “Boys will be Boys”.
22nd February 2019
Solo performance as part of BIFPA '19, in the Glass box Gallery / Foyer of Ulster University Belfast. Work shown: "Mute/Unmute" 15 minute performance.
15th June 2018
Solo performance as part of the degree shows 2018 at Ulster University, Belfast, the 6thfloor sculpture deck. Work shown: You Need To MAN UP.
24th March 2018
15 minute Solo performance as part of LIVESTOCK Performance Art Platform event at the Mart, Dublin. Work shown: “That’s So Gay…?”
16th November 2017
Solo performance as part of BIFPA ’17, in the Glass box Gallery / Foyer of Ulster University Belfast. Work shown: “Poof” 1 hour performance.
Group Performances //
14th–19th October 2019
Rebel Live Action #3 – ECO ART, ChangChui Creative Park, Bangkok, Thailand.
14th–19th October 2019
Rebel Live Action #3 – ECO ART, Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC), Thailand.
9th–18th November 2017
1 hour Group performance as a result from a Performance workshop, as part of Belfast International Festival of Performance Art ’17 (BIFPA), at Pollen Studios, Belfast.
Solo Exhibitions //
7th-12th March 2019
Solo exhibition and performance at Pollen Studios, Belfast. Exhibition installation entitled “Cut it Out”. Work shown: performance “Boys will be Boys” and sculpture “be Silent and Listen”.
Group Exhibitions //
15th-20th October & 19th-22nd December 2020
Group Exhibition at Making Space Art Space, Lisburn, Bow Street Mall entitled “Business as Usual”. Work shown: “fragile MASCULINITY”.
27th September 2019
Group exhibition for Flax Art Studios 30th Anniversary, at Havelock House, Belfast. Work shown: "Notes to your-self"
7th-15th June 2019
Degree shows 2019 at Ulster University, Belfast. Presentation of works by each of the current graduate resident artists from all discipline areas of Belfast School of Art, in the main foyer. Work shown: selection of placards from an ongoing project "notes to self".
5th–19th December 2018
Group show by mixed disciplinary artists, entitled “Sec2nd”, at Vault Artist Studios, Belfast. Forming a follow on exhibition/part 2 to the original Second exhibition shown in 2017. Work shown: “Looking at the world through…rose tinted glasses” and “As Hard As Nails”.
Group showcase including selected works by the current artists in residence within the Ba Fine Art area at Belfast School of Art. “Best of British”, British Embassy Gallery, Beijing, China.
8th-16th June 2018
Degree shows 2018 at Ulster University, Belfast. Work shown: ‘Untitled’ (U&I together forever) + sound piece, LOVE is LOVE, H I M + sound piece and prints of performance documentation.
22nd-26th September 2017
Group show by mixed disciplinary artists, entitled “Second”, as part of Culture Night Belfast ’17 at Smithfield Market, Belfast and Cotton Court Gallery, Belfast. Work shown: “As Hard As Nails”.
27th-30th April 2017
Group show by 2nd Year Fine Art, Sculpture Lens area students, entitled “Re:nouveau” at Catalyst Arts Gallery, Belfast. Work shown: “You’re Giving Me Mixed Signals / YesNo”.
6th-22nd April 2017
Group show by Arts and Culture Society of Ulster University entitled “Closure” at The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast. Work shown: “It Takes Two Baby / Love Game”.
1st–17th December 2016
Group show by The Arts and Culture Society of Ulster University entitled “Collective Memories” at The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast. Work shown: “Faggot?
Residencies and relevant experience //
14th-16th September 2020
Residency with Making Space Art Space, Lisburn (online Instagram take over)
18th-22nd February 2019
Performance Art workshop with students from Ba Hons Fine Art, Ulster University, ran in partnership with fellow artist Marta Dyczkowska, as part of BIFPA 2019, at Pollen Studios and Gallery Belfast.
24th September 2018–10th June 2019
Graduate Artist in Residence within the Ba Hons Fine Art Sculpture and Lens area, at Belfast School of Art, Ulster University.
6th–12th August 2018
Resident Artist at Stendhal Festival, Limavady. Commissioned sculpture made on site: LOVE is LOVE / LOVE is STENDHAL.