Catching up with KT-Lab: An Art Expedition

Catching up with KT-Lab: An Art Expedition

We’re catching up with artists KEELERTORNERO to get an update on their ongoing project KT-Lab:An Art Expedition.

Remembering the Concept and the Rules

‘We want to stretch ourselves, to expand our capabilities, to study and grow. We want to do it for ourselves… with a little help from our friends’
KT-LAB is a 2-3 year and possibly ongoing project (begun in Feb 2017) in which we complete tasks set by specially selected Artists and creatives who then critique the work we produce. The aim is to challenge our ideas about painting and art as a whole and to expand our vision by temporarily adopting the viewpoint of our chosen artists and to share online as much of this experience as possible. Through interviews and studio visits we also intend to offer an insight into the usually undisclosed world of everyday creative process and to enter into a dialogue with the Artists and the public about the meaning and function of the Arts in today’s society.
KT Lab

The Focus on Painting

We have been collaborating as artists for more than 10 years, extensively exhibiting painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, installation and film but we now want to focus on painting. We considered applying for a postgraduate masters course as a duo, as this would enable us to concentrate on painting, but like many of our peers, we couldn’t afford the time or the fees involved. So what’s the alternative?
How else could we get the benefits of a full-time course? Could we construct our own course framework to fit our current life situations? Could we for instance, find a way to:

  • appoint carefully chosen tutors – artists we admire – to set us tasks based on our course criteria and evaluate the results
  • interview these artists in their working environments about how they work, and why they work
  • set ourselves a program of study and research spanning our interests in art history, themes, concepts and techniques
  • write a dissertation asking important questions about the nature of artistic integrity, such as what it means to be an artist and why art is important
  • document the whole process online as it develops and create a forum for commentary, and also debate involving art professionals and members of the general public
  • potentially set a precedent for a viable alternative development and education framework for artists

The Aims of KT-Lab in Brief

Once the idea was formed, the plan was as such:

  • to study painting and take KEELERTORNERO’s practice to the point where we are fully equipped to express our ideas
  • promote a dialogue about painting and art – between artists, academics and the general public – around the relevance of art in past, present and future society
  • to connect artists with other artists and help promote a healthy exchange of ideas, collaboration and criticism
  • to explore the nature of artistic collaboration and its associated issues

Catching up in 2019

KEELERTORNERO have provided some insight into their first seven tasks from the KT-Lab.

Task #1

The first was task was set by painter and performance artist Shaun Caton. The project is called THE PREHISTORIC SCHOOL OF BARBARIC PAINTING, and he wanted us to make paintings using parameters set out here.
When he came to our studio to see the first paintings made from his directions, he gave us an initial critique in which he urged us to be less conscious when painting and try and connect to our gut instinct more. For instance, he wanted us to do away with trying to plan anything in advance, but rather let things happen in the moment. In response to this advice we decided to make an enormous improvised painting and film the results. You can see the film of the painting here.

Task #2

The second task was set by artist duo GRRRR! : Siân Superman and Pandora Vaughn. Called Truth 3000, the task was to make 50 painted objects out of found materials which reveal your truth and your secrets.

Task #3

Task number 3 was given to us by painter Layla Lyons who lives in an off-grid cottage in Devon. For the task entitled THE PAIN BARRIER, she sent us into the woods to paint En Plein Air with oil paint, and to stay there until we had broken through the imagined skin between thought and feeling when engaged in attempting to recreate what’s there in front of you.

Task #4

CREATIVITY AND THE BRAIN. Manchester artist Jack Doyle set us this ‘to be continued’ exploration into how the brain works in terms of creativity.

Task #5

ALICE HERRICK – THE BRIDGE. A series of sculptures made in response to Ian Healy’s paintings. We set up a residency during the week of The Bridge exhibition in the basement of Herrick Gallery in Mayfair and made 3D responses to Ian’s paintings. Following that we then made paintings of the sculptures.

Task #6

LEO KAY – THE WHYS OF WHAT WE DO. Drama and theatre maker Leo Kay asked us to look at our practice in-depth and into our real motivations for making Art. The task evolved over several meetings and became a collaborative enquiry about the human relationship with the natural world. We are currently in the process of designing a series of duration performance/installation/experiments around how humans relate to the plant world with a view to evolving ideas about how humans relate to other humans.

Task #7

Geoff Brunell is a retired artist who spent his life teaching in various art institutions around the country. He is looking at our work from an academic perspective. During his studio visit, he pointed out several things where he thought our oil painting practice could be elevated to a professional level.

Continuing with KT-Lab

We were initially going to restrict the project to 3 years. However we thought it would be a good idea to continue and make it a part of what we do for the foreseeable future. We feel that it’s been incredibly eye-opening and beneficial working with these artists from such diverse backgrounds and we look forward to embracing the ideas and perspectives of other task setters in the coming months.


Chin Keeler and Emma Tornero work collaboratively, intentionally replacing individual vision for animated dialogue, intuitively sourcing imagery or deliberating on a concept or theme. They create images in which the impossible becomes something perfectly natural, where characters play parts in an all-encompassing illusory world – a place of dreams and hallucinations, inhabited by strange beings living out their lives just beyond our peripheral vision. Presenting narratives of impossible geometry, we have cast a pantheon of players in an epic soap opera, a theatre of illusions and trap doors, where a fisherman from the island of Terschelling can rub shoulders with John Wayne trapped inside the body of a stag that’s trying to escape his future by becoming the daughter of Mies van der Rohe.’

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