Birds and Language (Exhibition catalogue)


2021    Kelly, Madeleine, Birds and Language Exhibition Catalogue (20 November 2021 – 13 February 2022) Wollongong City Gallery


My curatorial project, Birds and Language, included 30 artworks by significant Australian artists well-placed to communicate intersections between birds and language. The works were speculative; they suggested a radically different approach to understanding and presenting the colours, forms, sounds and behaviours of birds and reimagining humanity’s relationship with non-human life. From bird dancing and acoustic rhythms to threatened birdsong and languages, birds were considered from important new horizons and perspectives. A range of media – paint, ink, textile, sound, glass, ceramic, digital and more – cross-pollinate with the sonograph, the musical score, taxonomy, taxidermy, text, and abstract graphic languages from Europe to West Arnhem Land. Together they present birds as communicators and prediscursive agents.



Preview: Birds and Language

2021 Gaynor, A, ‘Preview: Birds and Language’ in Artist Profile, issue 57, pp. 172–73.



Liveliness: Can sympoietic painting save forms of life?


Kelly, Madeleine, ‘Liveliness: Can sympoietic painting save forms of life?’ ACUADS Conference 2020: Crisis & Resilience: art and design looks ahead. Australia: Australian Council of University Art & Design Schools, 2020. 1-13.


The view that images have a life of their own is a well-known vitalist projection (Hans Belting, WJT Mitchell). I extend the trope of the living painting to a systemic order of aliveness, one that emphasises painting’s becoming within a vital open system through Beth Dempster’s (2000) concept of sympoiesis. With that in mind I ask: ‘How might the metaphor of the poietic work extend to that of the living planet?’ Throughout the paper, I describe works from my Open Studio shown at the Queensland Art Gallery (10 October 2020 – 31 January 2021).


Kim Guthrie, 2020, ‘Madeleine Kelly: Can U Dig it?’, Artist Profile, issue 50, pp. 100–05.


Diversity and Demise Catalogue, 2017.

Smith, J Diversity and Demise: Encounters with pelagic birds and sub-linguistic form, exhibition catalogue, Wollongong City Gallery (11 February – 14 May), Wollongong NSW.

In this catalogue essay written by Jason Smith for the exhibition Diversity and Demise: Encounters with pelagic birds and sub-linguistic form, Smith states “The charming eccentricity in Kelly’s ornithological renditions is alleviated by her astute attention to individual specimens’ patterning and coloration, and her intuition for shape”.



Mimicry and Mimesis – Matrix Insect 2016

Kelly, Madeleine, Mimicry and Mimesis: Matrix Insect, Animal Studies Journal, 5(1), 2016, 48-64.

Paintings and insects might seem like odd companions. In this paper I describe how a series of paintings I made depicting insects creates associations between mimesis and mimicry in order to ag a sort of protective self-referentiality – one where painting resists its proverbial ‘end’ and insects are presented as vital new orders. Drawing upon art historical references, such as Surrealism and the modernist grid, I argue that playing on these references and the compositional effects of camouflage enlivens our regard for the sensuous worlds of both insects and painting. I conclude by exploring how paintings of insects are powerful metaphors for imagining new non-hierarchal relationships between humans and non-humans.



Abby Fitzgibbons, The Crevice 2009

Fitzgibbons, A 2010, ‘Madeleine Kelly, The Crevice’, Artlink, vol.30, no.4, p.85.

The body of work from The Crevice was first exhibited as a solo exhibition at Milani Gallery, Brisbane.The Crevice was reviewed by Abigail Fitzgibbons for Artlink (2010), who comments that “… [the crevice] haunted the edges of the composition, threatening the ordered and composed world..”



Timothy Morrell, The Error of Our Ways 2008

Morrell, T 2008, ‘The error of our ways: Madeleine Kelly’, Artlink, vol. 28 no. 1 March 2008, pp.60-65.

In this article written about the artist’s work for Artlink’s edition Fuel for Thought, Timothy Morrell states, “Madeleine Kelly’s pictures deal rather obliquely, evocatively and privately with problems that directly threaten the whole world. It is an oddly paradoxical way of treating subject matter that is of urgent significance to us all.”



‘Madeleine Kelly: A Natural Affinity

Mitchell, B 2020, ‘Madeleine Kelly: A Natural Affinity’, QAGOMA Blog

Queensland artist Madeleine Kelly offers insights into the complex intellectual threads that informs her practice. For her latest works, Kelly combines items from her personal collection with her love of science and the natural world.




2019 Kelly, Madeleine, ‘Exhibition review, The many faces of human impacts: The Seventh Continent, 16th Istanbul Biennial, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud’ College Art Association (CAA) International News, 19


When artists work with archaeology and anthropology it is easy to imagine their work as a labour entrenched in the past. Yet, in the 2019 Istanbul Biennial – entitled The Seventh Continent after the drifting mass of plastic waste that contaminates the world’s oceans, and showcasing across three venues the work of 56 artists and art collectives from 26 countries – artists break down the division between subjects and objects, granting subjective agency to stones, plants and other non-human voices. The most powerful works convey Serge Daney’s concept of ‘inter-subjective relation’ that proceeds by way of the form of the face. I propose that an echo of his early citation of inter-subjective relation is present in forms with subject-like qualities–in particular faces– and that these especially address our relation to dwindling diversity and mounting waste generated by industrial capitalism.



Creation and Preservation: Teaching colour theory

2015 Kelly, M. T. “Creation and preservation: teaching colour theory.” ACUADS Conference 2015: Art and Design Education in the global 24/7. Australia: Australian Council of University Art & Design Schools, 2015. 1-13.


‘Creation and preservation: Teaching colour in the transforming visual arts world’, conference presentation, The Australian College of University Art and Design Schools, University of South Australia, School of Art, Architecture and Design, Adelaide, delivered 24 September.

This paper reflects on novel learning experiences Kelly has undertaken with particular reference to colour. To do this, she describes two examples of learning activities that follow from short visual lectures that unfold the history of mixing pigments and light. In doing so, she addresses the relevance of colour theory to painting specifically, as well as its interdisciplinary potential. Kelly traces the mythic narratives of the original pigments and shows how pigments and resulting paintings have transformed in response to innovation. This article is a conceptual and empirically grounded examination of how colour is not bound to one discipline.

Madeleine Kelly Interview Sekme Magazine

2021 Kara Kaska, Merve ‘Madeleine Kelly interview,’ Sekme Magazine , ‘Information/Knowledge’ no. 5, for Iklim Gazetesi, Tab Climate Newspaper


MECO360: Between Expansion and Collapse, 2016.

Kelly, Madeleine, MECO360: Between Expansion and Collapse, Posted on April 5, 2016 by sballard, | 4 April 2016.

In the mid seventies, biologists Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock described the earth as ‘autopoietic Gaia’, a living system, a body analogous to our own, composed of interdependent symbiotic relationships. ‘We are walking communities …Ten percent or more of our body weight is bacterial [in its evolutionary origins], and it’s just foolish to ignore that’, Margulis stated (378). So, to explore these relations, my paintings sometimes depict things as part of flow charts or systems, but just as natural systems are disrupted by culture, these are fictional orders that disrupt accepted orders.


Abby Fitzgibbons, Hollow Mark 2011

Fitzgibbons, A 2011, ‘An Alchemy of Reflection’, in Hollow Mark, exhibition catalogue, 7 October – 13 November, pp.4-7.

Hollow Mark was curated by Director Simon Wright into the Griffith University Art Gallery in 2011, the exhibition was accompanied by a monograph with essay by Abigail Fitzgibbons.


Interview, Artist Profile Magazine, Issue 25, 2013-14

MacLeod, B 2013, ‘Profile: Madeleine Kelly’, in Artist Profile, no.25, pp.52-55.

The Surface of Language was exhibited by invitation at the Webb Gallery Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. The artist was interviewed by Bridget MacLeod in ‘Profile: Madeleine Kelly’, Artist Profile, November, Issue 25, 2013-14 pp52-55. The exhibition was reviewed by Hayley McFarlane, in ‘Brisbane Gallery Hop’, Artlink, Vol.33, no.4, 2013;


Tristan Stonhill, The Surface of Language

The exhibition “The Surface of Language” was reviewed by Tristan Stonhill, 2013.


The dark glow of the mirror in Santiago Carbonell’s mural, Mexican City

In 2016 I visited the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, Mexico City, to view a mural by contemporary Spanish Ecuadorian artist Santiago Carbonell (b. 1960), which I had been assigned to discuss to a tour group as part of a Law and Society Association conference.

Tucked away in the interior of court-sponsored walls, I see it as something of a mural of hypocrisy: an idealised state of affairs that aestheticises the insecurity and insufficiency of the Mexican justice system through technical skill and posed solidarity.



Claudia Fernandez: Ceremonia

2017 Kelly, Madeleine, ‘Claudia Fernandez: Ceremonia’,Garland 8, September 2017.


To emphasise aesthetic practice that is led by the hand, orchestrated by tools, and results in what one’s hands have done is to value the tactile humanist spirit that runs contrary to the economically rationalised mass-produced objects typical of consumer culture today.

Recently, while on a trip to Mexico, I was enthralled by the connective power of handcrafted objects in Claudia Fernandez’s exhibition Ceremonia. Myriad installations crystalize into a survey of the historical agency of Mexican artisans and their connection to landscape.



Josh Milani, Fossilphilia 2003

Milani, J 2003, ‘On the transformation of oil’ in Fossilphilia, exhibition catalogue.

In this catalogue essay written for the exhibition Fossilphilia (Filaments from Iraq), shown at Metro Arts, Brisbane, Josh Milani states, “Whereas one (crude oil) is transformed for the production of energy, hers is transformed for the production of culture, thus exemplifying through both medium and content what is in the end a humanitarian position.”