From the view of contemporary art, which revolves around movements and historical groupings, Alessandro Keegan‘s seraphitic paintings belong to the past.

Read any review on painting or painters these days and it is sure to include some sort of declaimer on the obsolescence of the medium itself. And yet we keep writing about it. Buyers keep on buying paintings and artists keep making them. Is it just habit? Indeed, have we yet to shed our full obedience to the formalizations of tradition? Or has industrialization and digitization just not crushed craftsmanship to the degree that some have suggested?

In the case of Keegan, the decision to forge ahead seems fully conscious. A quick glimpse at his Facebook page shows the artist mixing snapshots of his own work with that of recently-viewed inspirations: Marjorie Cameron, Bosch, Váchal.

Keegan’s paintings most often evoke Oehlen and Dali; photorealistic renderings of unreal physiology combine with an undulating, swirling sense of color and movement that gives life to an enchanted spirit world running parallel to our own. Shapes and bodies, as in Erotic Dreams in the Witch House (2015), often condense to create collage-like faces, ala Arcimboldo. Interest in witchcraft and other occultic subject-matter also give Keegan’s figures a hint of the expressionist and horrific, as in Goya.

In fact, the historical comes so strongly to bear on Keegan’s art that it’s as if the very spirit of art history haunts his tiniest of gestures. Yet where the paintings should haunt, they instead delight; where they might evoke existential crisis, there is unrepentant wonder.

A personal favorite is The End of Harmony in 1910 (2015), a large-scale work in oil, with mica flakes, broken cymbal parts, and other mixed media on canvas. Its title suggests an exact moment—a rupture of sorts—where one thing ends and another, less coordinated, begins. One is inclined to guess at a political event of 1910, or the emergence of some technology or manifesto that broke boldly with the past and rendered Keegan’s sinewy, plangent humanoids obsolete.

They, like painting itself, struggle on—in luminous shades of blue and turquoise, sensuous reds and medieval golds. In fact, artists like Keegan make a real case for the necessity of magic in a rigorously scientific age. Look long enough and the voices filter through: ‘Stops the drones! Turn off your cell phone! Drink once more from the cup of wonder!’ (Brian Chidester)

"Erotic Dreams in the Witch House" (2015), oil and one rupee coin on wood, 18"x24".

“Erotic Dreams in the Witch House” (2015), oil and one rupee coin on wood, 18″x24″.

"Justine's Divine Retribution" (2015), oil, mica, gold pigment and three euro coins on wood, 18"x24".

“Justine’s Divine Retribution” (2015), oil, mica, gold pigment and three euro coins on wood, 18″x24″.

"The End of Harmony in 1910" (2015), oil, mica flakes, interference pigment, broken cymbal parts and other mixed media on canvas, 52"x54".

“The End of Harmony in 1910″ (2015), oil, mica flakes, interference pigment, broken cymbal parts and other mixed media on canvas, 52″x54″.