Brendan Kelly is the latest artist to be featured in a current pop- up exhibition at Traffic Jam Galleries.
Kelly grew up in a typical Aussie suburban home during the 1970’s. He moved to Mullumbimby in the 1990’s and has performed as a stand-up comic and written children’s books. He has also worked as a graphic reproducer and a landscape artist. Kelly’s works are semi – abstract and reflect his thoughts about experiences and moments in his life, and examine how he regards himself as Australian.
His bold, vibrant, at times confronting works in this exhibition leap off the canvas and are often dominated by dark, rusty reds. They could perhaps be regarded as somewhat strange even disturbing at times.
In ‘Salamander Sally’ we see a woman’s breasts and face in the dynamic swooping curves of the circular composition.
‘Australian Dreamers’ is appears to ben at least partly a contemporary abstract re working of ‘American Gothic’ by Grant Wood, depicting the ‘Great Australian Dream ‘ of Mum, Dad and child standing outside their house. Or is it a comment on how Covid and the economy has destroyed the dream? The figures are outlined in white, the faces each depicted as one huge eye with emphasised eyelashes.
With ‘Breast Feeder’ the breast is prominently placed towards the top left hand side of the canvas. The woman’s face is blank except for slit like eyes, and one leg is visible. Juggling motherhood and art, Is she bending over playing the piano atop the red desk whilst breastfeeding the (invisible) baby?!
Two lobsters on a blue plate, with blue salt and pepper shakers are depicted in ‘No. 27’ (as in table 27 at a restaurant ). The work is explosively energetic as if the lobsters are trying to escape.
In ‘Enough is Enough’ a mysterious masked figure looms, the head depicted like an old fashioned TV set, one eye large and open, the other a slit – pondering life. The person is very thin and stands with a curled hand above their head.
‘Equestrian Variation 17’ is a haunting depiction of a human dreaming of being a horse (or a centaur perhaps?) – the person has hooves instead of hands, one hoof in the pool or lake depicted. The work has very strong lines of composition and also looks at the divide between town and country, with the skyscrapers of a city being depicted as very far away.
Next comes the haunting and brooding portrait of ‘Akmal Saleh. Saleh’, holding us compellingly in his gaze, where the eyes and ear are emphasised in vivid brushstrokes.
Edgy, thrusting ‘Solicited’ has folding and unfolding lines of a forceful composition, that both lead the eye forward and then receding, at certain points. Is it a sex worker with their leg splayed?
In great contrast are two avian portraits, ‘Bath Tap’ and ‘Sprinkler’.
‘Bath Tap’ is a delicious, vigorous portrait of a magpie bathing and shaking itself in the water from the tap. There is a sense of verticality, pushing the viewer’s eye upwards, – as if the bird could fly off any second.
‘Sprinkler’ depicts another magpie sitting glumly atop the tap control, waiting for it to be turned on so it can have a bath.
Brendan Kelly’s exhibition runs at the Traffic Jam Galleries until the 14th May 2021.