JOHN KELLY: IRISH LANDSCAPES
“Every death, even the cruelest death, drowns in nature’s indifference.”
- The Marquis de Sade
John Kelly turns to landscape painting and the true horror to be derived from his paintings is that no trace of the horror can be readily found. The High and Low Islands which bore witness to the suffering on shore look tranquil and inviting.
In response to [nature's] indifference (which parallels the indifference of the English upper classes who nearly committed genocide against the Irish), we are required to speak out and remember the atrocities that both nature and our system of social classes tend to swallow up or wipe away.
This is landscape that swallows up human suffering instead of landscape of a harmonious, balanced and timeless mood...
- Read full review on Wall Street International by Daniel Gauss
Update: A selection of paintings from the 2015 exhibition will be on view at 991 Fifth Avenue (at 80th street), NYC in a special loan exhibit till October 31, 2016.
[New York, NY] Spark Art Management is pleased to present the first U.S. solo exhibition of internationally renowned Australian-Irish artist John Kelly (b. 1965).
A noted sculptor, painter and printmaker, John Kelly first garnered international fame for his paintings and large bronze sculptures of cows (inspired by the papier-mâché ruminants William Dobell was allegedly commissioned to make for Australian airfields during World War II in order to deceive Japanese pilots). Kelly’s quirky reinterpretation of these cows have been exhibited on the Champs Elysées, Paris, in Les Champs de la Sculpture (1999), Monte Carlo, in La Parade des Animaux (2002), the MAMAC in France, The Hague (2007), Glastonbury (2006 and 2007), Melbourne Docklands (2001 to present) and Cork City (2011 to present).
His other famous bodies of work include prints and sculptures after the "Moonboy" by Sidney Nolan (Australia's best-known modern artist), as well as sculptures formed after cultural institutions both real (such the Tate gallery in London) and imaginary (the Irish Pavilion for Venice Biennale, for example, when the country did not have a pavilion at the Biennale), within whose sanctified spaces he held miniature solo exhibitions of his work.
In Australia, Sotheby’s serves as the exclusive agent for the promotion and sale of Kelly's primary market sculptures since fall 2014; a rare––if not unprecedented––arrangement for a living artist.
The son of an Irish father and English mother, Kelly was born in Bristol, UK. His family immigrated to Australia when he was six months old, and he grew up there before relocating to Reen in West Cork, Ireland, in the early 2000's. He maintains passports for all three countries. These differing cultures have shaped Kelly's cultural identity and artistic production, while the history and the magnificent landscapes of West Cork proved to be of much inspiration for his recent body of work.
This exhibition brings together select pieces from Kelly's recent Irish landscape paintings (2013-2014), the first major body of work he painted "in the elements." Sketching and painting on his field easel propped atop a stone tomb, a spot that gave him an open view of the High and Low islands, Kelly captured the austere and ruggedly beautiful coastline of the islands and the two harbors of Castlehaven and Blind, set against the ever-changing West Cork sky. Kelly's compositions are simple yet observant, the views ancient but fresh.
Castlehaven, Oil on canvas, 2013
The Stags (off Toe Head), Oil on marine ply, 2012
A group of paintings depicting mounds, sticks, and stones point us to follow the artist's gaze inland. These paintings silently speak of Kelly's search into the less-than-adequately visualized history of the land during an Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger) that struck the Irish population hard between 1845-1850. Since settling down in Cork, Ireland, Kelly has taken deep interest in the local history during the years of the Famine and the socio-economic dynamics that resulted in a peculiar lack of visual representations of the tragedy in Irish and British fine art. This interest had led him to a number of important sculptural commissions and participations in international bienniels, it is thus natural to see the topic re-emerge in his paintings of the land.
Regarding these paintings, Kelly wrote,
"Like sentinels, ten upright weathered wooden poles that are known colloquially as ‘The Sticks’ stand at the end of the peninsula. Originally eighteen were erected in the millennium year of 2000, all in a line. As the years have passed some have yielded and now lie in the long grass. Artist Susan O’Toole created this work as a blessing to the land where an Gorta Mór impacted with such devastating results. The remaining ten attracted my eye for not only what they represented but also their austere beauty...." - Essay by John Kelly, "Stick and Stone" (2013) >read full text
Since producting this milestone series, Kelly has been taking his landscape paintings even further––both literally and figuratively. In 2014, Kelly participated in a residency in Antarctica during which he painted the sublimely beautiful pictures of the frigid landscape. Fifty seven Antarctic landscape paintings from this endeavor are on view in a solo exhibition at the TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) from June through September 2015. In 2016, Kelly is invited to attend a residency in Nevada, United States, where he plans to capture the burning, dry landscape on his canvas.
- Seol Park, Curator/Organizer
John Kelly in the Media
IRISH LANDSCAPES exhibition review on Wall Street International (September 26, 2015) by Daniel Gauss
Latest bronze sculpture, an emotional and personal journey for artist: Daily Review
Uptown NYC: ARTIST'S TALK 991 5th Avenue, September 15, 2015
Downtown NYC: Exhibition Opening Reception at 51E 10th Street, September 16, 2015
Spark Art Management is John Kelly's U.S. Liaison.