KILLEEN, Richard;

Living for Today No. 3

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August 1981
Alkyd on 16 pieces of aluminium
Dimensions variable

In 1978, Richard Killeen began the cut-out paintings for which he is best known. Each is made up of shaped and painted aluminium pieces. Although there is a parallel with Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, Killeen’s works have no fixed compositional order; pieces can be arranged in any manner. The viewer is thus allowed a greater range of options in approaching the work. There is no set narrative, but instead an allusiveness that is upsetting to those who expect painting to tell them what to think and how to respond.

The second image shows Living for Today No. 3 at Peter Webb Galleries, where it was first shown in 1981. Reviewing the show for Art New Zealand, Leonard Bell commented:

‘The major innovation of these works … resides in the manner of their arrangement. They were ‘put up’ or assembled, not by Killeen, but by five invited or selected people, who do not belong to the classification ‘artist’, as it is conventionally understood. …’

‘What of the ‘non-artists’ contributions at this show? Oddly enough, some of the arrangements suggested that, though Killeen had freed himself from the frame, not all of his collaborators had done so. They tended to assemble their pieces as if invisible frames set up boundaries not to be transgressed (though architectural features such as columns and doors may have been limiting factors). For instance, no-one exploited corner spaces, and an orientation towards ‘order’ prevailed in the arrangements, even though the open-endedness of the work and process of production implied a more improvised, less deliberate approach, in which chance and the arbitrary played primary roles.’[1]

As of 2020, the work is hung around a corner.


[1] Leonard Bell, ‘Exhibitions: Auckland’, Art New Zealand 22 (Summer 1981–82).

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Living for today No. 3 / August 1981 / 16 pieces [each piece, verso]

Exhibition History

The 80s Show: Paintings from the Fletcher Trust Collection, Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, 1 July to 27 August 2017 (toured)

Richard Killeen, Peter Webb Galleries, Tāmaki Makaurau, 1981


Fletcher Trust Collection, purchased from Webb’s, Tāmaki Makaurau, 24 March 1987