Articles by Olivia O'Keeffe

Part 1: Painting Revealed : Fire & Water

Fire & Water, 2007, 50x70cm, acrylic on canvas

It was 2007 and the theme I proposed for my adult painting class in Bunnik, The Netherlands, was that of the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. Inspired myself by the theme, I began contemplating the elements of fire and water interspersing as an idea for a painting. I liked the idea of red and blue as base colours. I knew I wanted a strong contrast and that although fire generally has a more transparent quality and often in the direction of yellow, that wasn’t going to work for me visually. Transparent yellows meeting blue would have resulted in greens and yellows which I didn’t want. It was important for me that the meeting of the red and blue, the fire and water was of equal strength, pure and sharp. If you look at the painting where red and blue now overlap you can play with seeing red in front of the blue and vice versa.

Other than this vague idea I had no idea what form the painting would take. The first version which is not seen here was made on paper of A4 size approx. I initially grabbed a large household paint brush and slid the brush with dark paint back and forth horizontally. I then turned the painting upside down and immediately saw mountains. No denying the silhouette of a mountain. A painting was born.

I then proceeded to play with the paint and imagined the sensation of being a bird skimming really low and fast over the water. A sense of speed was important, hence the addition of lines in the water. The initial version looks very similar to this one except for the size and the fact that the waters edge was more straight across and not curved.  When completed. I thought it had potential but wasn’t quite there. Hence, I remade the idea on canvas and added the curved waterfall edge to increase the sense of dynamism which is a common factor in my paintings.

“Fire & Water” has been exhibited in the Netherlands, Ireland and the USA many times. For years knowing it was gem, I refused to sell it. A good friend of mine and avid art collector said if I ever changed my mind about selling it, she would be interested.  Just a couple of years ago I finally succumbed to parting with “Fire & Water”. The painting  found a most glorious home at my friends house in Switzerland, with spectacular views of lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains. And I can visit it!

I consider ”Fire & Water” to be a pivotal painting in my life’s works so far. The reason is not only because of its striking beauty, strong composition and dynamism,  but also because it represents a time in my development when I was between styles; between figurative and abstract. Its figurative, yet fantasy. Representative of a landscape yet is expressive in its colour use. It was a point when I was saying goodbye to painting more realistic Irish landscapes and before my current abstract phase.

Now and again a painting  seems to form itself in front of your eyes and “Fire & Water” was one of those easy births. A painting of which I am proud of even after all those years.

2020 The journey alone…

This is a journey we travel alone and yet are completely connected. On a molecular level we are bursting with pulsating atoms of energy. We go about our daily lives feeling and absorbing many types of energies. Here I will be applying the written word to make sense of the intangible, wavering at times between what makes sense mentally and what the heart knows.

Many things can be a catalyst for experiencing our senses on a new level. A good book, a robin resting, a petal falling, morning dew drops, a beautiful song, a serene poem and even a painting that speaks to you. And it is the latter that I wish to investigate; the connection we can have with art. To do this I will be reflecting on paintings of mine. I plan to share my story, my struggles and thoughts behind the chosen artwork.

Interaction and feedback by you the viewer are most welcome, as each connection and interpretation is unique and I too hope to understand my paintings more by hearing how a painting resonates with you.

For the duration of 2020 I plan to regularly highlight a painting of mine. With more than a quarter of a century of artworks to choose from, the style and content will no doubt vary a lot. If you’d like to nominate a particular painting of mine for me to write about, just let me know. A full overview of my painting collection can be found on my website:

This is a journey we travel alone and yet are completely connected. Lets enjoy the journey that this new year brings.


Abstract 2010-2015

Conquering Ireland…

On my mission to conquer Ireland in 2019, the kick-off is set on the beautiful island of Sherkin, situated in the south-west. From July 30th-August 5th  my solo exhibition will take place in the local Community Hall. Above are a sample of photos taken during my visit to the island last Summer. Sherkin has a tradition of being a magnet for artists and many of the local artists who live on the island will also be exhibiting on Sherkin throughout the Summer.

Art/Light Installation Impression

Especially for the Culture Night of Houten ( my home town in the Netherlands) on March 30th, ( ) I went out of my comfort zone and created an art installation with the use of simple materials including rope, wool, branches, neon paint and black light. This installtion took place in the passage way of a small shopping centre. Stepping inside the black draped curtains, an exciting and magical journey revealed itself, while soft Celtic background music set the mood. Due to the dark setting and blacklight / UV lamps, it was tricky to capture the installation on camera. However is a photo impression:


Final exhibition by Makeblijde

I’m currently exhibiting 11 new paintings in Makeblijde. This exhibition consists of 4 women artists living in Houten. My fellow exhibitors are Shuen-Li Spirit, Anja Grondman en Puja Sonneveld. To exhibition is open weekdays under office hours.  For a personal tour of the exhibition, please contact me for an appointment. This is the final exhibition at Makeblijde before they close their doors the end of this year.

Link to Makeblijde, click here.


Representation by New York gallery Agora

2018 promises to be a good one, with kick-starting the Makeblijde 2017 1year by signing with my dream gallery: Agora Gallery, situated in Chelsea, Manhattan. The collaboration includes taking part in the renowned art fair:  Artexpo New York, April 19th – 22nd 2018.

Followed by a group exhibition in Agora Gallery, May 22nd-June 12th. With the opening night on Thursday May 24th at 6pm. More details will follow. All are welcome.