Featured Artist Richard Ketley finds meaning where others may not.

Holding an MFA from the University of Witwatersrand, Ketley’s work centers on his global travels and experiences of place and culture. He captures these experiences in abstract works executed in a diverse range of media.

He finds meaning “in the fall of light on a sandy building in Riyadh, the chaos of the shacks of Kampala, or the crowded taxi parks of Johannesburg."

Ketley preserves the energy of those scenes in brush marks, colors, and sometimes even shapes he notices within the crowded spaces.

Artwork Archive got the chance to chat with Richard Ketley about his creative process, subject matter, and what's coming next! You can see more of his work on Discovery and learn more about it below. 

Richard Ketley, 'Gorgias V', 160 x 160 x 4.5 cm


Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?

Enormously—I started at the age of sixteen as a painter of wildlife (birds in particular) in Africa. No one looking at my abstract creations today would believe this, although sometimes some of those early works still crop up in auctions.

Subsequent to that, my career has been through a number of phases—often occasioned by areas and places of interest to me. I spent many years living in Uganda where my work was mainly comprised of small abstract landscapes. Since moving to Johannesburg, my work has evolved into very large pieces inspired by the urban environment and often executed on found materials drawn from this environment.

My MFA show brought these two worlds together—giant hanging works on drafting film inspired by some of the remote islands of Lake Victoria.


Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process?

Undoubtedly, my favorite part of my creative process is the moment when I'm faced with a white untouched canvas.



You mention that you find meaning in objects and places where others do not. What elements of your work convey those meanings?

My work is often inspired by crowded, noisy, and chaotic scenes. In my execution of the pieces, I try to preserve some of the energy of the spaces in brush marks as well as picking up the colors and sometimes shapes that I notice in those places.


What has your artistic education consisted of (formal or not)? If you did receive a formal education like an MFA, did you find it necessary for your artistic growth, or did you find that elsewhere?

I was a self-taught professional artist by the age of sixteen—which meant relying on painting sales until I completed my MFA 40 years later. I found the formal process of the MFA played a very important role in improving my awareness of why I produce art, how it needs to live in the world, and how it's received by the formal art market.

One of Richard Ketley's recent works. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Since it is October and we’re officially in “Spooky Season”, do you have any art business horror stories that you have personally experienced? If so, how did you deal with them?

My worst experience was when I consigned work for an exhibition in Germany. The work got lost in Toto by the courier company. We finally ended up making prints of the work, displaying them, and trying to get collectors to commission new work.

The original pieces are still lost in a warehouse somewhere, and I learned to never compromise on insurance when shipping artwork!


Is there anything in particular that you’re working on right now that has you excited?

I'm currently working hard on two exhibitions—one in Dubai and the other in Cape Town. They both explore quite different territories. 

The exhibition in Dubai is entitled 'Babel' and speaks to the legend of the Tower of Babel. It also picks up many of the ideas of a desert city that brings together people who speak many different languages. I've been particularly excited by the pieces I've worked on for this show as I have included many new elements (particularly text) into the pieces.

The exhibition in Cape Town represents a different challenge in that it's a joint exhibition with a sculptor. We've had to try and find commonalities between our work in a way that has challenged and inspired both of us.


What routines—art-making and administrative—are essential to success in your art career?

Routines—and set studio times—are essential to my creative process, regardless of whether I am feeling creative or not.

Some of my best works have emerged from days when I felt no creative urges at all.

At the same time, I am acutely aware that my art career requires me to spend as much time (if not more) on the administrative side of the business—particularly keeping track of where everything is so that a request to purchase generates delight, not panic!

Richard Ketley, 'Development with Chinese Characteristics II', 90 x 70 x 5 cm

Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory/manage your artwork?

I initially tried managing my inventory on a spreadsheet, but I found that there was just too much information that was required. A spreadsheet is also not a good tool for storing and managing images as well as all the documents associated with an art career. 

I experimented with several platforms and found that Artwork Archive offered the best combination of capabilities and price on the market.


How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?

I try and have a very robust process and, from my smartphone, document new work in Artwork Archive as soon as it's completed. I also use Artwork Archive to respond to inquiries from collectors, submit proposals to galleries, and track the location of pieces that are out on consignment.


What advice would you give an emerging artist right now?

Any emerging artist [in the gallery space] now needs to manage their engagements across a wide range of platforms, with different galleries and art consultants.

In my experience, I have struggled with two things: firstly, ensuring that any piece of work is only available on one “platform” and remembering which platform that is! There's nothing worse than a gallery furiously contacting you to ask why the piece they have on consignment is also available on Saatchi, for instance. 

I manage this on Artwork Archive in two ways: by adding Tags to indicate which platform the work is available on and then also recording physical locations with their Location feature. Secondly, Artwork Archive reduces the time I previously spent loading images across multiple social media and art platforms. I find the option to embed my Artwork Archive page on my website has been a great help.

Richard Ketley, 'Development with Chinese Characteristics V', 107 x 190 x .1 cm


Richard Ketley uses Artwork Archive to inventory his artwork, stay on top of collector inquiries, and present his work professionally. 

You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business