John Kelly in South Reen; photo by John Minihan
John Kelly has been described variously as an awkward bugger (Fergal Gaynor, 2007) and a free radical (Guangzhou Triennale, 2008), and whilst these observations are no doubt true his awkward radical behaviour leads to some interesting results.
John Kelly was born in 1965. His father, from Cork, and mother from Bristol, the family immigrated to Australia the same year. 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 two decades has resided in west Cork, Ireland. His work has been collected into the Yale Center for British Art, USA, the National Gallery of Australia, the Crawford Gallery, Ireland and the Guangdong Museum in Guangzhou China, MONA, Tasmania, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, etc.
In 1985 Kelly obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts Painting) 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. In the UK he exhibited regularly with the prestigious Piccadilly Galleries in Cork Street, London and then Agnews Gallery, the Redfern Gallery Galleries, and is now represented by Smith and Singer (formerly Sothebys Australia).
As a painter, sculptor and printmaker Kelly engages across mediums and also writes, having written for Art Monthly (Australia & UK) and Circa magazine (Ireland), The Jackdaw (London) and Daily review (Australia). In 2017 he was nominated for a Walkley Award for Arts Journalism.
Wish came true article from Sunshine Western Suburbs Advocate 21 December, 1982
In Australia Kelly is well known for his paintings and large sculptures of William Dobell’s cows, papier-mâché creations used during WWII in an attempt to confuse enemy aircraft as to the location of the Australian airbases. His sculptures 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), London (Goodenough Trust in Mecklenburgh Square, 2005), Cork city, 2011, and Melbourne Docklands (2001 to the present). His bronze monumental Man Lifting Cow is exhibited in Sunshine, Melbourne (2016 to the present).
More recently, Kelly’s work has taken various turns and adventures that have seen him tackle contemporary issues – such as branding in contemporary culture, and museum politics – in places such as the Guangzhou Triennale, 2008, and the Göteborg Biennale, 2011. In 2005 Kelly’s work was commissioned by David Walsh (Museum of Old and New Art, MONA) in Hobart 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 the award winning labels have become iconic Australian beer labels.
Kelly’s work is held in many museums and galleries in Australia and also the Guangdong Museum in China. His most recent exhibitions in 2022 have been in Paris (Sothebys) and Melbourne with the Lazarus Series (Smith and Singer)
|Born in Bristol, family moved to Australia
|Obtained a BA from RMIT University, Melbourne
|Obtained a MA from RMIT University, Melbourne
|Won the Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship
|Studied as an Affiliate Student at the Slade School of Art
|First show at the Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
|Dobell cow sculpture displayed in 'Les Champs de la Sculpture', Paris
|Dobell cow sculpture displayed in 'La Parade des Animaux', Monte Carlo
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