But Now They Seemed Beyond Caring, 2004, Oil and acrylic on linen, 212 x 282 cm, 83 1/2 x 111 in
John Keane’s work has always been deeply concerned with conflict – military, political and social – in Britain and around the world and his subjects have included Northern Ireland, Central America, and the Middle East. He came to national prominence in 1991 when he was appointed as official British war artist during the Gulf War. His eerily beautiful paintings address difficult topics relating to religiously inspired terrorism such as Guantanamo Bay, the Moscow theatre siege, and home-grown acts of violence against civilians.
These paintings concentrate both on the Russian hostages in the audience, their fear and resignation, and also the female suicide bombers, the so-called ‘Black Widows’. Whilst these paintings depict a specific event related to a specific conflict a long way from London, the imagery alludes to the bubble of immunity which most of us occupy in our daily lives as we watch the world outside, literally screened off by our televisions, and how this bubble can now be so easily burst in the most brutal way by people and events that we feel have nothing to do with us.