Murdered artist’s work goes on display at Goldsmiths

Keith Church exhibition. Pic: Melissa Fernando

An exhibition of artwork produced by a former Goldsmiths, University of London student who was stabbed to death more than three decades ago is on show to the public.

Keith Church, described by relatives as a shy but hard-working artist, was stabbed to death at the age of 27, before ever having the chance to exhibit a single one of his more than 2,000 works.

The exhibition, entitled “Urge to Paint”, draws on Church’s own writing from 1976. “Art is the result of an urge,” he wrote: “Controlled and applied by the will of Artist. Though the urge often comes out far stronger than the control”.

Keith started his art journey in 1976, completing an art foundation course at Goldsmiths. Over the next six years, he lived in a shared house in Broxbourne, Herts where he created over 2,000 art works.

Keith made the decision to return to Goldsmiths to pursue an undergraduate degree but was murdered in Broxbourne in 1982. It remains one of the few unsolved murder cases in Britain.

Last year, Keith’s family and his cousin, Kurt Barling, a professor of journalism at Middlesex University and former BBC journalist, started to prepare an exhibition of his work with the help from Goldsmiths, University of London.

According to Kurt Barling, the family had kept Keith’s paintings as a way of keeping hold of Keith. But as time passed, they realized they wanted to share some of his artworks with the world.

“My aunt is getting old, she wanted at least one of her son’s artworks to be exhibited,”said Barling. “So she wrote to Goldsmiths and asked would they be prepared to do an exhibition about her son’s artwork, and they said, ‘Yes’.”

At the same time his book ‘The Art World’ in which he wrote about his cousin’s story was published. It then took a year to get everything in place for the exhibition.

Barling added that there were practical and emotional reasons for the family to hold the exhibition. “Keith is an artist. Artists always represent the world how they see it, and the audiences use their art and interpret the way they want to see,” he said.

The exhibition communicates the way in which diversity in art helps us negotiate our differences. It also serves as a reminder of artistic aspiration to find a unique way of representing the world.

Keith created over 2,000 artworks in his life. The collection includes some self-portraits and a number of excellent paintings, drawings and works selected by Keith’s family. ‘Mum at Kitchen Sink’ which is of his mother, is his first serious subject, painted at the age of 12.

The exhibition is on display in the Lower Atrium of the Professor Stuart Hall Building at Goldsmiths, University of London. It remains on show until February 9 and is open to the public from 9am – 7pm daily.

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