The Interview: 

Tom Keukenmeester

Words Amy Willing
Imagery Elke Numeyer-Windshuttle

Meet Tom Keukenmeester, Adelaide-born painter and illustrator, and the newest occupant of our south-east corner studio. Tom is mostly self-taught, developing his skills while travelling and living in New York, London, and Montreal. He returned to Adelaide in 2013, and is currently completing a Masters of Art History at the University of Adelaide. We caught up with Tom on a break in his busy schedule to find out a little about his work, and where he’s headed next.


Hi Tom. What brings you to Sydney?

I moved up here from Adelaide two months ago, and started working at 107 about four weeks ago. I got a small grant from an organisation in Adelaide to be able to undertake a residency here, and I called around a few places in Sydney. I thought an artist run initiative would be my best bet, and in the end, 107 was the place that really perked my interest. I’m interested in how it has developed, and how solid and stable it is here. It’s definitely been the right choice.

Can you describe a typical workday for you?

There isn’t a typical work day! Every day is different. Sometimes I’ll have really intense weeks where I’ll do 10 or 12 hour days, and then there are times when I’m still trying to figure out where the work is going, and I’ll come in for an hour or two and then go for a jog or go rest my mind for a couple of hours.

What’s your studio like, and do you have a favourite object in it?

I’ve only really contributed a handful of objects: I’ve got a little floor fan, an easel I paint on, and a tiny little potted plant that I’ve been neglecting terribly for the last two weeks… This building’s got so much character. There’s always so much going on, it didn’t really need me to add much.

You’ve recently entered a work in the Archibald Prize. Can you tell me about your subject and why you chose him?

I painted Rodney Adler, who is a well-known business man here in Sydney. A friend of mine suggested Rodney to me, and I actually hadn’t heard about his story. We met, and what interested me straight away is that he’s this very complicated character. He’s got this infamous past, but he’s also got another side – he’s spent the last 10 years of his life on a redemption path, working for charities and organisations around the country. He’s probably one of the most complex people I’ve met in my life.

When you are creating a portrait of a person, there must be a fair amount of trust involved. How do you go about building a relationship between you and your subject?

I’ve only painted two portraits before. And both times the subjects were relatively new people to me. So I find talking to them for quite a long time to understand who they are as a person helps me to understand them. Once you ‘see’ them you can paint them. As far as trust in my ability to paint, both sitters had seen my work prior.

Who influences your work?

For the last year or two I’ve really liked a Sydney-based artist, originally from Brisbane, called Anthony Lister. His work is completely different from mine, but there’s something about his style and his energy that I really love.

 Besides painting, what really gets you excited?

Art wise? I love discovering other cool artists who are doing new or different things! I also love travel and immersing myself into other cultures. I like the feeling of discovering something that’s new to me, which is of course much easier to do in a foreign country.

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