Bibo Keeley and Debby Forsyth

Please tell us who you are and what you’ve been working on recently.

DF: I am an artist and childcare practitioner living in Aberdeen. In 2019 I took part in an exhibition of paintings and sculptures.  After this I decided I wanted to explore a more three dimensional aspect in my work. During lockdown I explored kinetic sculpture and puppetry through research and experimentation. When restrictions relaxed I was able to to attend two workshops with a professional puppeteer and director. He invited me  to show him what I had been making and advised me  on how to progress. He instructed me on how to scale up what I was doing and what materials and what construction methods to use for a rod puppet. This was an exciting introduction to unfamiliar methods and materials. I have realised that as well as making the puppets, making them come alive through performance is really important to me. Recently I have introduced some of the puppets Iv’e mad to the children I work with.  I can rely on them for their honest reactions and some for their enthusiasm to also get involved. For the last year I have been involved in an online group presenting their writing and an urban sketch group. This has led me to  wanting to use audio in my work.

BK: Working in a range of media, I find inspiration in lived experience and feeling connected with nature. In 2019 I graduated as a mature student with a first class BA(Hons) in Fine Art. I was invited to contribute to the Royal Scottish Academy New Contemporaries exhibition 2020, with sculpture and a performance piece. Due to changes brought along by the pandemic, and co-shielding in a two-artist household, a central aspect of my work has since become collaborating with artist Brian Keeley. In 2021 this began with a commission by the Southbank Centre in partnership with The Barn, Banchory, to contribute to their Art by Post project. Further collaborative work in 2021 included The Shared Heart – an online exhibiton hosted by The University of Aberdeen, Breathe – a performance-based moving image piece for the Glasgow-based Unfix Festival of Performance and Ecology, and Time For Change – an interactive art installation commissioned by the Edinburgh Climate Festival. I also received a Tom McGrath Trust Maverick Award (and additional support through an Aberdeen City Council VACMA award) which allowed me to collaborate with theatre director Susan Worsfold as well as with Brian Keeley over the course of the year. The resulting film – The Shared Light (23mins) was completed in November 2021.

What drew you to each other’s practice?

DF: Through Bibo I had an introduction to performance art, and through seeing Bibo’s films and the Flesh on the Bones performance event she did with Brian at the Anatomy Rooms in Aberdeen I have witnessed the myriad of ways Bibo expresses her art via photography, performance, painting etc. from the world around her and her response to the health crisis that Brian and Bibo found themselves in.  ‘Never standing still’ is my impression of Bibo in her art practice which has struck me and made me think!

BK: From the first time I ever entered Debby’s studio, I have felt a strong attraction to her work. I love the vibrant colours of her paintings, the sometimes open and sometimes secret narratives, and the expressiveness of her figurative creations. I think of her and her work as unpretentious and authentic. Debby creates because whatever she makes needs to be created. That’s something I really appreciate.

How will you use the 1:1 FUND?

We aim to explore ways of merging sculpture, puppetry, and performance. This process will allow us to share and learn new skills, and develop narratives with a view to using video as a medium.  This fund will enable us to access a workshop/online course respectively, a small amount of travel, materials and mentorship.

What is the one thing you most hope to gain from undertaking this work?

DF: The one think I would most hope to gain from doing this work is to evolve my puppetry ideas through performing them, and discover how this collaboration with Bibo will influence us as artists

BK: This will be my first artist collaboration since before the pandemic which extends beyond my two-artist household, and I hope that this will lay strong foundations which Debby and I will be able to build on in the future.



The Wind In My Soul - performance by Bibo Keeley, Isle of Skye, Scotland 2018. Image: Brian Keeley
'The Wind In My Soul', performance by Bibo Keeley, Isle of Skye, Scotland 2018. Image: Brian Keeley
Debby Forsyth, The Asylum, 2021. Image: Debby Forsyth