Keith Albarn

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Keith Albarn
Born 1939 (age 74–75)
Nationality British
Education Nottingham Trent University, School of Art and Design
Known for Mathematics and art, Systems art, Psychedelia, Design

Keith Albarn (born 1939) is a British artist.


Keith Albarn was born in 1939. He studied Architecture in Nottingham before moving to London where he specialised in sculpture at Hammersmith School of Art.[citation needed]

In the 1960s Albarn worked freelance to finance environmental art projects including "Interplay" at the ICA. Also at this time, a gallery was set up at 26 Kingly Street, which was run by a group of artists including Albarn and his wife, Hazel, who also exhibited her work there.[1] In 1967 Malcolm McLaren presented his first public showing of work, which was based around an environmental installation.[2] In the same year, Jeffrey Shaw and Tjebbe van Tijen presented Breathing, Airmatter, Soundform.[3]

In 1967 Keith Albarn & Partners. Ltd was established to design and produce "modular structures and multi-media environments for festivals, exhibitions or private clients who want anything from weather-proof golf course shelters to a children’s playhouse".[4] In 1968 they contributed to the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity at the ICA that was curated by Jasia Reichardt.[5] Also in 1968 Ekistikit was launched at Margate’s Dreamland Amusement Park in Kent via Spectrum, the first 'psychedelic' Fun Palace[6] which had 20 different chambers where the participants were able to explore and stimulate their senses by awakening each room. The second Fun Palace was called Fifth Dimension and was presented at Girvan on the West coast of Scotland,[7] and featured on Tomorrow's World and in their 1970 annual.[8] Keith's Ekistikit system was flexible and was also used as furntiture for the style-conscious of the seventies as well as for children's playgrounds.[9] In 2002 a version of EKISTIKIT was presented as an exhibition by UNIT with Jim Birdsell at the Spiral Gallery in Japan.[10]

In the sixties Keith Albarn was involved in presenting 'happenings',[11] was a guest on 'Late Night Line-Up'[12] and briefly managed the band Soft Machine[13] after travelling with them to the Côte d'Azur where his flat-pack Fun Palace was used as a gig venue.[citation needed]

Albarn began researching pattern in the 1970s after he formed Vertex,[14] a group made up of Keith Albarn, Jenny Miall-Smith, Stanford Steele, and Dinah Walker, that worked on the research, design and construction for the first 'World of Islam festival' at the ICA in 1974 that later on became Islamathematica when displayed in Rotterdam.[15] Vertex also worked on the exhibition "Illusion in Art and Science" that was shown at the ICA in 1976 and in New York in 1977 and which led to the book Illusion in Nature and Art by R. L. Gregory and E. H. Gombrich. He was co-author of 'Language and Pattern'[16] in 1974 and Diagram, The Instrument of Thought[17] in 1977.

From 1977-1981 he was course leader of fine art at North East London Polytechnic. From 1981 to 1997 he was the head of School of Art and Design at Colchester Institute. Whilst in Colchester he helped set up Cuckoo Farm Studios and formed CADVAT (Colchester and District Visual Arts Forum)[18] that later led to the development of firstsite.

Keith Albarn is the father of the musician, Damon Albarn, and the artist, Jessica Albarn.[citation needed]

Pattern and Belief[edit]

In 2013 The Minories Galleries presented a body of work that was developed from over forty years of research; a progression of patterns developed from a simple number game. It was on display from 18 May to 13 July 2013. For over forty years Keith Albarn had been researching number systems and patterns, and their relationship to belief systems and creativity. Taking a simple number game as a starting point he developed an infinite number of new patterns that connect across various dimensions allowing endless possibilities for outcomes. Some of these possibilities were displayed at The Minories Galleries through a patterned environment, prints, sculptural forms, artist’s games and sound-works. As part of the exhibition a library and collection of material further explained this area of research.[19] One of the reviewers wrote that 'Albarn's vividly engaging artworks [were] a blend of intellect and intuition [...] pattern as both order and permeable vision'.[20]


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