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In my performance work I am currently focused on language that I find toxic and outdated.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.