Mitchell Kelly


June.29 - July 15 2013

"For me, the landscape is not a static or temporary structure. It is a culmination of change: natural, manmade, and spatiotemporal."

Sydney-based Mitchell Kelly has never been drawn to the tamed landscape. First-hand encounters with the wild, more remote regions of Australia and their unpredictable beauty have been his preference. The current body of work, and each of his previous ten solo exhibitions, is the outcome of journeying to such areas. Two very different Tasmanian locales are the inspiration and subject for the Ground paintings. Surrounded by mountains in the state's west, the Queenstown region resembles a moonscape. Eroded to bare rock the ground is pitted with abandoned copper mines. The trees have all long since gone, devoured by smelters belching toxic fumes. In utter contrast to this bleak and barren landscape, the east coast's Tasman Peninsula teems with wildlife in the scrub and forests of its National Park. Out beyond the dramatic sea cliffs and in the many bays, seal and penguin colonies abound.

These are landscapes long subjected to the cyclical rhythms of nature and the more recent incursions of humanity. "The notion of time and change is the catalyst in my art-making," says Kelly. "Change is not readily apparent when one observes or enters a landscape for the first time. The overwhelming sense of expansive space initially diverts attention from the multitude of nuances." Kelly's artistic vocabulary is shaped by the locations in which he has worked. There is no predetermined intent but rather the need to communicate a deeply felt relationship with the land. "My engagement with a site is the culmination of immersion."

"Ground investigates the role of the artist as a translator of environment," continues Kelly. "The landscape is a vehicle in which I explore abstract concepts. Subjective sensory experience and objective perceptions unite in an attempt to penetrate the landscape's facade. With panoramic considerations as well as defined perimeters, I view the land formations from multiple positions. Space is implied through the suggestion of perspective, it's a naive and simplistic reference to foreground, middle ground and background. Horizontal linear markings are used to evoke notions of distance and traversed terrain. Natural phenomena are deliberately simplified so as not to detract from an emotive intent."

There is an innate vitality to Kelly's abstracted depiction of things not only seen but felt. He is less concerned with factual description than with conveying the mood and poetic sensibility of place. "The significance of spontaneity within my painting practice is paramount. The multiple departure points from realism seek to capture the essence of landscape," Kelly explains. An affinity with the natural world manifests in the wonderful freedom of Kelly's brushwork and charcoal line. The gestural markings signify the abandonment of a predetermined pictorial outcome. Densely textured, the paintings are built up through layerings of paint that are then scratched into and scraped back to elicit various grades of opacity and translucency. Energetically rendered grass-like calligraphy is a common motif throughout the works and serves to provide accent and continuity to the compositions. Everything seems full of raw kinetic power as he explores the visual possibilities of a flat surface covered in expressive markings and earthy tones. Kelly pulls the viewer into heightened aesthetic domains where spontaneous gesture and the transient coexist with the observed world.

Mitchell Kelly is currently undertaking a Master of Fine Art degree at COFA, UNSW. Ground is Mitchell Kelly's eleventh solo exhibition since completing a Bachelor of Art Education UNSW, 2003. He has been a finalist in numerous competitions including the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, 2007 and was runner-up 2005; the Norvill Art Prize for landscape painting 2006, the Willoughby Art Prize 2005, the Strathfield Art Prize, the Mosman Art Prize and the Warringah Youth Art Prize 2002. He was awarded an Artist-in-Residence at Stuart Town Studios, Stuart Town 2007 and Artist-in-Residence at Haefliner's Cottage, Hill End 2005 - 2006.


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