John Kelly, Out There
‘When Antarctica rejects you, she lets you know it’ John Kelly
Oliver Sears Gallery is pleased to present ‘Out There’ the artist's second exhibition in the gallery. Comprising four distinct elements of Kelly’s practice, the first floor gallery will host the fifty-seven paintings he produced during his residency in Antarctica and on board the icebreaker Aurora Australis on its trip to Antarctica in the winter of 2013.
Shown for the first time in Ireland, these paintings vividly record life in this daunting white continent. Compositions of icebergs and cold blue floes represent 'plein air' painting in extremis. Kelly's technical strengths are echoed, inescapably, by the currency of climate change. The singularity of this shrinking landscape makes these pictures a compelling testimony. His experience was eloquently described in a series of blogs he wrote for The Guardian. A catalogue, Beyond Woop Woop, containing images, photos, essays and Kelly’s Guardian blogs accompanies the Antarctic works.
In 2014 Kelly was drawn to the Burren, a karst landscape in the west of Ireland. Created some 350 million years ago by the dissolution of limestone, the remains form the landscape we see today, the sediment of a once tropical sea. Kelly portrays the swirling layered rock formations of this mythic landscape, one of only five such known topographies.
The Desert Series depicts the unique terrain of central Australia which became the next location of Kelly's focus in 2015. Rich, red hues dominate this desert world, once the seabed of an enormous ocean. Within the three locations Kelly demonstrates his global awareness as a portrait artist of landscape, allowing us to connect with these enigmatic topographies.
To complete a most intense period of making for this talented multi disciplinarian, a new series of 'Moo Brew' etchings are also on view. David Walsh of the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA in Hobart commissioned Kelly to create work for his Moo Brew beer labels. Kelly referenced the logo of the Australia Council for the Arts, who themselves had advocated a “branding the Arts” strategy. In what was a successful anti-branding branding campaign (Kelly’s artistic expression of dissent to the branding strategy being pursued) the award winning labels have become iconic Australian beer labels. They incorporate the image of a kangaroo and the sun with a pastiche of Sidney Nolan's 'Moon Boy', a precursor to his Ned Kelly series.
John Kelly was born in 1965 in Bristol, UK. His Irish father and English mother emigrated to Australia the same year. He has lived and worked in Cork for the past 14 years. He studied at the Slade School of Art, London. His sculptures have been exhibited on the Champs Elysées, Les Champs de la Sculpture II, Monte Carlo, in La Parade des Animaux, MAMAC France, The Hague, Glastonbury, Crawford Gallery Cork, and Melbourne Docklands. Kelly’s work is held in many museums and galleries in Australia and the Guangdong Museum in China. Kelly has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Australian Fleurieu Art Prize, a non-acquisitive prize, for 20 of the Antarctica paintings. Valued at $65,000, it is the richest landscape art prize in the world.