John Kelly, Irish painter and printmaker, 1932-2006

Press Cuttings John Kelly’s “Icarus” Review

Hallward Gallery, Dublin until May 31

He who dares doesn’t always win, and the pain of trying fractures the figures in Kelly’s Icarus project. It’s an old story, and a favoured one for writers and artists who really want to deal with the nature of art-making, with questions that befuddle you at 20 but still make you wonder in your seventh decade.

Kelly’s signature swooshy painting pulls figures from the ether, here the winged investigator presented as aviator, as puppet, as broken image. The real content is figuration itself, done with oil, graphite, watercolour and drawing. There are nearly 60 of them, too many to sustain the Icarus theme, sometimes in danger of scattering that gut-wrenching anguish which at times sears sharp as a knife.

Theatrical at their most powerful, these are solitary images, oddly moving and all about failure – but equally about the need to take risks. Intense, committed and perfectly made. 

MR, 1996