First Berg (2014)
John Kelly was born in 1965. Due to his birth, heritage and circumstance John now holds three passports and therefore is an Englishman, an Australian and an Irishman. Kelly has lived in all three countries and for the past decade has resided in west Cork, Ireland. In 1985 Kelly obtained a Bachelor of Arts from RMIT University, Melbourne, where he also completed his Masters of Arts in 1995. As a winner of the 1995 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, he travelled to London to study as an Affiliate Student at the Slade School of Art from 1996 to 1997. Kelly’s work has tackled contemporary issues – such as branding in contemporary culture, and museum politics.
In the UK, Kelly has exhibited regularly with the Piccadilly Galleries, Agnews Gallery, and Merville Galleries. In Australia, Kelly is best known for his paintings and large sculptures of William Dobell’s cows, which have been widely exhibited in France, The Hague, Glastonbury, Cork and Melbourne. Kelly’s work is held in many museums in Australia, and also the Guangdong Museum, China.
A few minutes walk from where I live, I look out at the picturesque headland created by the two harbours of Castlehaven and Blind; both beautiful ingresses into the rugged and jagged coastline where islands such as High and Low, The Stags, Horse and Rabbit lie within rowing distance of the mainland. I expressed a desire to paint this landscape when we first arrived in West Cork a decade ago. I became sidetracked until recently, when I found myself in the foyer of the Merrion Hotel, Dublin, staring intensely at a small Paul Henry painting; it was a harbour painted ever so simply. It reminded me of Castlehaven. I returned home and climbed Ceim Hill to paint a small homage. Looking out to another island, The Stags, which takes on the appearance of a castle in certain light, I began to paint. As I worked rain moved up the harbour, obliterating The Stags with that familiar grey blanket, cloaking me a few minutes later. Despite the drenching, I have tried many times since – often pondering the two sides of the haven whilst trying to engage with the few who have succeeded; Paul Henry in Ireland, Brett Whitely and Fred Williams in Australia.
John Kelly, 2013
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