John Kelly, Irish painter and printmaker, 1932-2006

Press Cuttings Let There Be Light

New Works by John Kelly
Hallward Gallery, Dublin

John Kelly’s watercolour and oils in the Hallward continue the figurative exploration (evident in his last solo show on the theme of Icarus) which has concerned him for some time.

These fascinating works, which seem to have a strong spiritual or psychological dimension dealing with the inner experience, generally have one figure. When there are two or three, they each seem caught in their own world, related yet distant from one another. In the majority of paintings the face is obscured, the figures androgynous. And in one or two cases the picture is worked to powerful abstraction.

A number of the paintings are from behind the scenes, or rehearsals at what appears to be a circus. Tense figures sit until their cue. A harlequin figure – so popular with Picasso and a symbol of both laughter and sadness – stands on a raised circle, centre stage, waiting, or is draped like a broken doll in a Pieta scene. The winged figure of Icarus is also present. (A head study too bears resemblance to the Icarus heads of 1996).
The works are flat, with no attempt made at conventional perspective, and in many instances the picture plane is divided horizontally into three parts.

Sometimes these horizontal lines only go halfway across, on others they bend to form a semi-circle, but in a number of cases there is a strong tripartite division which creates picture space.

John Kelly’s works have a strongly defined outer edge and where this is not automatically apparent the artist creates it in a strong colour outline which may change in hue as it works its way round. His use of colour is very personal, subtle yet powerful and in some cases passionate.

Marianne Hartigan, The Sunday Tribune, 23.05.1999