John Kelly, Irish painter and printmaker, 1932-2006

Press Cuttings Promise in Second Art Exhibition

By Our Art Critic

At his first exhibition of paintings, John Kelly gave the impression of being a somewhat naïve artist, with a flair for capturing the poignancy of the moment of passion in scenes from the Life of Christ.

Now, at his new exhibition in the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery, St. Stephen’s green, Dublin, he reinforces this idea and shows great technical advance. He has been in Spain, where the colour and light seem to have inspired him to obtaining greater subtlety in the surfaces of his paintings.

The somewhat flat forms and strongly emphasised outlines are replaced by areas in which he has worked the paint into delicate passages. This is especially notable in “I Will Go Now”, a title and subject reminiscent of Yeats, but one which is a foray into new country for this painter.

Excellent colour

He remains weak in drawing, and thus some of his most beautiful pictures, like “Christ meets His Mother” or “The Last Supper” lack the definition which are necessary for complete conviction, in subjects which touch on the most profound considerations.

His colour here is excellent, and in “The Kiss” is so deeply felt that we recognise that Mr. Kelly is capable of using the paint to express his feelings in a way which is unusual. Up to now only artists like Rouault have managed to achieve that blinding statement of inner certainty, in which the thick black lines and passionate red carry greater weight than the most precise drawings.

From Spain

The pictures from Spain like “The Goat Man” are notable for the way they convey the movement and gesture of the people, as well as the atmospheric effect, and I must confess that they mark a capacity for feeling, beyond what I had thought possible with the limited technique employed by John Kelly.

He has been able to force his line into delicate statements related to personal shades of thought, when I considered that these broad outlines of his were capable only of general application. If he continues in this way, he may well become one of our most interesting expressionists.

This is an exhibition which should on no account be missed.