Almost Beautiful – Keaton Henson

Almost Beautiful is a series of new, mixed media works from Keaton Henson that explore unknown narratives, solitude, badly buried trauma and the destruction of something beautiful.


The works in this solo exhibition at London’s Lawrence Alkin Gallery seek to uncover the inevitable traumas resulting from that deeply English trait of suppressing emotion, with each piece depicting a painstakingly drawn, delicate image which is then defaced either with an explosive blot of ink or a line of cynical text. The Banquet for instance depicts a clearly wounded and scarred moonlit man, with his face obscured by an oozing mass of paint and ink.


As Henson describes it, “this collection represents hidden trauma and agony, but being created in pencil, they have a soft serenity about them, which seems to contradict that. The larger works have then been defaced with poured black and cream paint, as if the aforementioned trauma cannot help but ooze out, as it often does in life, displayed to the world as a dark void.”


On the works obscured by words and phrases – words that again reveal the artist’s inner trauma – the thoughts running through his head – he adds: “the text works do a similar thing, but with their inherent negativity rather than a physical mess – almost feeling like you’re gazing across at a beautiful scene but unable to fully see or appreciate it for your own thoughts.”


Henson talks openly about suffering from anxiety and his total unease with the spotlight and people watching him, something that is also a feature of the art on display – with many of the subjects depicted within his portraits almost straining to avoid eye contact with the viewer.


Widely known as a musician, Keaton is currently working on his fifth album and scoring a film for the BBC, he describes music as his day job, turning to his art to articulate the things he finds it hard to sing about.


Keaton Henson is a musician, writer and visual artist from London, England. Already a cult hero, he has released critically acclaimed albums as well as books and sold out art shows around the world. He first came to prominence as an illustrator, working to save up enough money to record his first album Dear… alone in his bedroom in leafy Richmond. After online success with his self-made music videos, he was discovered by BBC Radio 1, shooting his haunting songs into the collective conscious. After this initial success, Keaton went on to release the sell-out wordless graphic novel ‘Gloaming’, complete a tour performing in England’s museums after hours, hold two solo art shows in London and make three award-winning music videos, before setting off for Los Angeles to record his critically acclaimed second album ‘Birthdays’.


Since then, Keaton has sold out a tour of churches and cathedrals around the world, released the lauded instrumental album ‘Romantic Works’, scored for film, and released his first collection of poems entitled ‘Idiot Verse’.


Keaton’s work, both in song and on page, often has a diaristic narrative, which has been described as ‘uncomfortably honest’. He tells stories of lost love, reclusiveness and deep-seated anxiety, whilst also conjuring dreamlike fantastic worlds where the mundane English suburbs hide mystical things unseen.


He is currently finishing work on his fourth solo album, scoring a film adaptation of the ballet ‘Young Men’ for the BBC and releasing two books; one of poetry entitled Idiot Verse and Five Years of Favour, a collection of sheet music and drawings.


Almost Beautiful runs from 19 February- 12 March 2016 at Lawrence Alkin Gallery, 42 New Compton Street London WC2H 8DA