The National 4, Art Gallery of NSW, 2023

Installation view of works by Madeleine Kelly, featuring ‘Supernature’ 2023, ‘On the paper petals crack’ 2023, ‘Pelican analogues’ 2023 and ‘Middle-earth’ 2023, on display as part of ‘The National 4: Australian Art Now’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 24 March – 23 July 2023, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Stirling

Madeleine Kelly’s expansive art practice examines the complex exchange between nature and culture. Her work is layered with references to her garden and the natural world, the history of art and mythology, and the role of the intuitive and subliminal in the creative process.

 

For The National 4, Kelly has created a new collection of paintings and porcelain sculptures that draw from her ongoing interest in nature’s cycles of destruction and regeneration. These sensory compositions suggest a web that supports a world we cannot see, a mysterious portal into a place where art is the explanation of language, signs and logical systems, and nature is the home for geometry, chemistry and physics.

 

Ever-present in Kelly’s art is the rumbling of modernity – the mechanical disruption of natural order and balance elicited by our extraction and depletion of the environment’ (Beatrice Gralton, curator, The National 4, 24 March – 23 July 2023, Art Gallery of New South Wales).

 

Installation view of works by Madeleine Kelly, featuring ‘Supernature’ 2023, ‘On the paper petals crack’ 2023 and ‘Middle-earth’ 2023, on display as part of ‘The National 4: Australian Art Now’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 24 March – 23 July 2023.

 

Installation view of works by Madeleine Kelly, featuring ‘Repetitions’ 2023 and ‘Formless forms’ 2023, on display as part of ‘The National 4: Australian Art Now’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 24 March – 23 July 2023, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Stirling

 

‘Pelican Analogues’ 2023, oil and casein on polyester, 150 x 110 cm. Private collection.

 

Pelican analogues (2023) is similarly inspired by Kelly’s time in Ravenna, borrowing the form of a helix that appeared in many of the Byzantine mosaics. Within this spiralling framework Kelly depicts a human figure embracing pelican alongside abstracted nasturtium leaves. The intertwining bodies undergo an alchemical transformation, assuming elements of the others’ form while they float  against a backdrop of eddying currents and visceral layers’ (Tai Spruyt, assistant curator, The National 4 catalogue essay).

‘Middle-earth’ 2023, porcelain, wood, panels ranging from 56.5 x 41 cm to 56.5 x 56.5 cm.

 

In ‘Middle-earth’ 2023, five die cast moulds for metal fittings manufacturing hang mid-air. Their function is inverted, the very idea of piping systems, unions, couplings, crossings, nipples or plugs is reversed; instead of connecting, the recto and verso of each panel face out in opposition. Forms associated with industrial power are invested with a libidinal energy where there is no chance of industrial progress. Their textured surfaces recall early forms of language such as ideographs, and hieroglyphs, some as if from an old world, where tokens functioned as word signs (Madeleine Kelly, artist statement).

‘Formless forms’ 2022 Oil and casein on polyester, 70 x 56 cm

 

In ‘Formless forms’ (2022), earthworms wriggle across the surface as painterly gestures. One worm slips behind a stripe and another around the edge of the frame. A single passage of paint was enough to embody their indeterminate forms. For Dionysius the Areopagite, the earthworm was the closest representation of God, a ‘formless form’ that moves in and out of itself, and just as Dionysius was a shapeshifter, these humble Wollongong worms point beyond figurative representation to the formless world of the spiritual, the earth behind the painting (Madeleine Kelly, artist statement).

‘Supernature’ 2023 Oil on polyester 138 x 102 x 3 cm. Private collection.

 

Like a computer circuit board, the figure’s punched-out face resembles a loom, and her sculpted hair and thorax-neck give her a cyborg compatibility.

 

‘On the paper petals crack’ 2023 oil and acrylic on canvas 138 x 102 cm

 

Installation view of works by Madeleine Kelly, featuring ‘Supernature’ 2023, ‘On the paper petals crack’ 2023, ‘Pelican analogues’ 2023 and ‘Middle-earth’ 2023, on display as part of ‘The National 4: Australian Art
Now’ exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 24 March – 23 July 2023, photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mim Stirling

MNEMOSYNE, EARTH DRILL, HAZELHURST ARTS CENTRE 2023

Works exhibited in In the arms of unconsciousness: Women, Feminism and the Surreal, Hazelhurst Arts Centre (1 July – 27 August, 2023) curated by Carrie Kibbler.
Mnemosyne 2023 oil on polyester, 101 x 137 cm

Mnemosyne carries all the weight of our collective unconscious embedded in our desire to find/understand the shape of things. Spirals have a double movement that opens outward or draws back, a twofold rhythm of liveliness and creation, and withdrawal and entropy. This inward outward motion is a pattern recording the material life of time. The figure in the background is appropriated from ‘Burial of the Wood’ by Piero della Francesca.

Earth drill 2023 oil on polyester, 137 x 101 cm

In Earth drill, Chthonic birds float around this Wollongong earth drill’s spiral. Their elongated tongues extend to pollinate flowers or interpenetrate eyes, suggesting symbiotic exchange and networks akin to neural synapses of the brain, where branched forms metaphorically float around in watery heads transmitting meaning. The painting might be considered an oily network of memory, the brain inside out, where geometric ‘treelets’ interact with biomorphic forms . A mould for industrial manufacturing doubles as the sun while other moulds spin out in the underworld.

One is the Loneliest Number, Museum in the Park 2022 & Sidney Nolan Trust 2023

My work, One is the loneliest number, presented a new practice-based creative work — ten framed starch print portraits of scientist Lynn Margulis. UK curator, Patricia Brien, invited me to make this new work for her exhibition, Plant Communitas, Museum in the Park, Stroud, UK (2–24 April 2022). Each leaf is carefully sewn to card and presented in a custom-made museum frame. Museum glass minimises reflected light to enable easy viewing.

 

Printing with light is at the heart of my work with photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, chlorophyll attracts photons of light and turns it into nurturing starch with the help of water. The ancient art of starch printing was used to smuggle plans across borders. Their pale cream surfaces contained secret information – millions of grains of starch formed from light shining through a photographic negative. Dried and slipped innocuously between pages of a book, the leaves waited to be mounted and stained with iodine. Scientist Lynn Margulis proved the organelle responsible for photosynthesis, the chloroplast, evolved when ancient bacteria merged with eukaryotic cells to become an entirely new symbiotic being. She postulated that we are all walking communities of our bacterial origins. My work, One is the loneliest number, presents ten starch print portraits of Margulis. The leaves express the paradoxical coincidence that Margulis, observer of chloroplasts and their leaves, now appears entangled with their liveliness.

 

Plant Communitas considered the agency of plants in the context of plant-human entanglements. Artists included: Diana Scherer (NL/DE), Madeleine Kelly (AUS), Sigrid Holmwood (SE/UK), Louise Amelia Phelps (UK), Gloria Petyarre, (AUS) Fiona Owen (UK), Annemiek de Beer (NL), Sir Sidney Nolan OM AC CBE RA Hon.RE (UK/AUS), Ingrid Pumayalla (UK/PE) & Cristina Flores Pescoran (PE), poet JLMorton (UK), Siren Wilhelmsen (NO), Emma Thistle (UK), Tim Parry-Williams (NO/UK), Mandy Martin (UK/ZA), Jack Everett (UK).

 

One is the loneliest number 2022 Starch print Ten frames 31 x 27 cm Photo: Stephen Lenthall

Threads, QAGOMA 2020

This exhibition provided insight into Madeleine Kelly: Open Studio by presenting an ecology of art, threads, and life. It explored the idea of weaving what we see with what we know and dream. The images wove disparate ideas together and entwined formations of webs, wombs, and patterns to remind us that many species form a fabric with a key material thread. This interconnection is crucial, showing how the liveliness of artwork can extend to that of the living planet.

— Madeleine Kelly

Threads 2020 Installation shot Queensland Art Gallery (10 October 2020 – 31 January 2021) Photograph: Chloe Callistemon

Threads were among the earliest transmitters of meaning’, said Bauhaus artist Anni Albers. In these prints Albers conjoins graphic images with those of Andean textile design. The lines are enlivened through colour and interchanging rhythm. Albers dedicated her book On Weaving (1965) to the weavers of ancient Peru

Untitled 1948 (from ‘Connections 1925–83’ portfolio) 1984 / Screenprint on 150 gram Umbria paper / 45 x 35cm / Purchased 1990

 

With verticals 1946 (from ‘Connections 1925–83’ portfolio) 1984 / Screenprint on paper / 49 x 38.6cm / Purchased 1990

 

Smyrna – knupfteppich (Bauhaus period) 1925 (from ‘Connections 1925–83’ portfolio) 1984 / Screenprint on 150 gram Umbria paper /

 

51 x 38.5cm / Purchased 1990 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/ARS/Copyright Agency, 2020

The long and pointed beak of this bird suggests it is a hummingbird. In this work we see an interlacing of temporal and spatial dimensions. In the pre-Columbian world, the bird was vested with supernatural features and represented the sky, nighttime, war and darkness. The Nasca culture believed that animals inhabit a parallel world and exert influence over human life. Today such a belief system would certainly keep humanity in check. The synthetic character of the bird is a result of it being forced to remain within the bounds of the rectilinear structure formed by the intersection of the warp and the weft.

Unknown / Peru / Textile: Honeyeaters date unknown / Wool and acrylic blend / 40 x 30cm / Collection: Madeleine Kelly

This textile, courtesy of the ‘Good Shepard Trading Circle’, Brisbane, was woven by women working for the organisation ‘Creation Agustina Rivas, for the promotion and capacitation of the woman Kcauri – Cusco Peru’. It contains a compositional logic whereby inversions, oppositions and reversals of the same symbols create a kind of syntax, pattern and typological imagery. Image and written language appear to conflate.

Creation Agustina Rivas / Peru / Textile: Abstract date unknown / Wool and acrylic blend / 40 x 34cm / Collection: Madeleine Kelly

This pot from New Mexico features prehistoric bird design patterns composed of abstract wing and feather motifs that have been passed down through generations. In many cultures, textile designs were often transferred to the surface of ceramic vessels where they retained their abstract appearance.

Hopi Pueblo / United States / Pot c.1900–50 / Hand-built white earthenware body of squat flaring shape decorated in brown and rusts with an abstract design / 11.5 x 22cm (diam.) / Acquired pre 1977 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

In the pre-Columbian world the sky, earth and underground were represented by the bird, the feline and the snake. The Feline symbolizes might.

Unknown / Peru / Pot: (seed carrier) 1400s / Terracotta earthenware clay hand built and carved with burnished finish / 15.5 x 14 x 11cm / Gift of Mrs Lillian Bosch 1975 /  Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Window Bandit is based on a photograph of a potter wasp trying to escape through my studio window, battling its reflection. These wasps, which are in the family Vespidae, build mud pot nests.

Madeleine Kelly / Australia b.1977 / Window bandit 2019 / Oil on canvas / 71 x 51 cm /  Collection: Madeleine Kelly / © Madeleine Teresa Kelly/Copyright Agency, 2020 / Courtesy: Madeleine Kelly and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

Circles and lines enliven many of these works. They contain structural affinities between formal radiation and the sun. The sun’s energy exists and transforms across any distance and time, illuminating and providing photons vital to plant growth. 

As if yearning for enlightenment, three lamps gather together in deep thought. Bodily connotations ride on domestic ones. Their bent necks and peering eyes suggest they are oculate beings. Though the lamps can in no way see, they express the paradoxical coincidence that the sun, emitter of light, appears as the eye, receiver of light. 

John Brack / Australia 1920–99 / The sun lamps 1966 / Etching on wove paper / 32.7 x 39.6cm / Purchased 1967 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Helen Brack

The cross-contour lines in Ay-O’s ‘Finger Box’ were inspired by looking through a prism. Like a spider that spins its web, a figure pulls coloured thread from its womb, perhaps to create coloured copies of itself, or further spin its landscape. One might go so far as to say the work illustrates the idea that the matter of the womb is derived from the maternal-feminine, the word ‘matter’ itself attaining meaning from the word ‘maternal’. This work is poignant as it points to the politics of reproduction that recognises the multiple dimensions of human life

Ay-O / Japan b.1931 / Finger box (from ‘Rainbow landscape’ series) 1974 / Screenprint on paper / 65.5 x 51.1cm / Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © QAGOMA

The form of a black radiating sun throws beams over a spindly landscape of filaments. Petal-like forms wilt towards a group of biomorphic frenzied figures. Without walls or borders, their figures metamorphosise or diffuse into their grounds. The picture shows forms living in kinship differently from that which we presently see, suggesting a world beyond the myopia of the individual body.

Joan Miró / Spain 1893–1983 / (Untitled) (from ‘Noire et rouge’ series) 1938 / Drypoint on Arches paper / 17 x 25.7cm / Purchased 1996. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Successió Miró/ADAGP Magritte, Miró, Chagall/Copyright Agency, 2020

This sundew’s tiny arms explode like fireworks and terminate in sticky filaments; numerous mini replicas of each other. Hall’s work draws attention to structural affinities between the micro and the macro.

Fiona Hall / Australia b.1953 / Sundew (from ‘Insectivorous’ series) 2006 / Etching and chine collé on Hahnemühle 350gsm paper / 25 x 33cm / Purchased 2007. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Fiona Hall

The legs of a half translucent figure seem to float before the surface of a pool. This work, made during my third year of study at the Queensland College of Art, was somewhat inspired by the evocative, existential presence of Madonna Staunton’s work made from clothing. I initially learned of Donna’s work through an exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery. Later I was lucky to work with her in her home studio at Bennett Road, The Gap, where I grew up.

Madeleine Kelly / Australia b.1977 / Eclipse 1999 / Oil on canvas / 90cm x 61cm / Collection: Madeleine Kelly / © Madeleine Teresa Kelly/Copyright Agency, 2020 / Courtesy: Madeleine Kelly and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

‘What is left over after the business of living is what interests me’, said Donna Staunton. Donna’s aim was to enliven what she called ‘inert matter’. Here the clothing’s material appears tactile but also doubles as a kind of psychological skin. The red thread of life recalls a bloodline—an unravelling of what it means to be human.

Madonna Staunton / Australia 1938–2019 / Cloth, needle, cotton 1995 / Paint, steel, yarn and cotton on paper / 89 x 64.5cm / Purchased 1996. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate  of Madonna Staunton 

My book Forms of Agency 2017 played on on a timed loop in the gallery space.  The first half of the book features images of the women who worked at the Leipzig Cotton Mill during the GDR juxtaposed beside images of Peruvian textiles and art I have photographed while doing the rounds of galleries around the world. The second half features a work I produced during a residency at the Leipzig International Art Program, 2016. When researching the history of the Leipzig Spinnerei’s cotton production and the role of the women who worked in the mill, I was drawn to experimenting with woven fabrics. I made a series of 18 frottages of kitchen stoves on wool, cotton and nylon. Each image appears as a 1:1 blueprint or diagram and corresponds to our corporeal expectations. As a collection, they resemble skins, eyes and breasts, and also appear as human bodies. Their rather rigid typology suggests a canon of allowable forms to which our bodies are forced to conform, as well as the labour of the female body – as domestic, ruled and sexual.

http://play.qagoma.qld.gov.au/flipbook/forms-of-agency/site/10/

Madeleine Kelly, Forms of Agency, Publisher: BOOK MACHINE (Sydney) II, a temporary publishing house organised by onestar press (Paris) and set up at VOLUME 2017 | Another Art Book Fair on October 14, 2017, powered by Artspace Sydney.

Madeleine Kelly: Open Studio, Queensland Art Gallery 2020

I was invited to share my studio practice at QAGOMA and provide insights into how I work. I displayed seven new works, including a painted animation. These works explored my overarching prompt: ‘My work is like an ecosystem; it is very much alive — the relationship between me and my work is sympoietic, and the audience is activated by the affinities at play’.

 

The project presented a facsimile of my studio, expanded paintings, an animation, and hosted socially engaged events. Together they provided insight into my creative practice through structural and elective affinities. In my expanded paintings, I identified two distinct kinds of affinities – one that emphasised structural kinship, analogy and homology, evoking communities of ideas, and the other, elective affinities that spoke to material transformation and attraction. Through these works, I showed that making art is a poetic process that entwines meaning and transforms matter, heightening our sensibility to our entanglement with the living planet.

Madeleine Kelly Elective affinities 2020 Wax, resin and pigment on glassware Various, approx 27 glassware pieces 159.2 cm x 37.5 cm x 45 cm in Madeleine Kelly: Open Studio 2020 Installation shot Queensland Art Gallery (10 October 2020 – 31 January 2021) Photograph: Chloe Callistemon
Madeleine Kelly Elective Affinities 2020 Wax, resin and pigment on glassware Various, approx 27 glassware pieces 159.2 cm x 37.5 cm x 45 cm  Photograph: Chloe Callistemon (Scroll down for details)
Madeleine Kelly Structural Affinities 2020 Gesso, varnish and pigment powder on assorted objects Various, approx. 36 assorted objects, ply panels, hardwood dowels 159.2 cm x 37.5 cm x 45 cm in Madeleine Kelly: Open Studio 2020 Installation shot Queensland Art Gallery (10 October 2020 – 31 January 2021) Photograph: Chloe Callistemon (Scroll down for details)
Madeleine Kelly Lie in Wait 2020, Oil on board 67 x 44 cm Photograph: Chloe Callistemon
Madeleine Kelly: Open Studio 2020 Installation shots, Queensland Art Gallery (10 October 2020 – 31 January 2021) Photographs: Chloe Callistemon
Madeleine Kelly Structural affinities (details) 2020 Photographs: Chloe Callistemon
Madeleine Kelly Elective affinities (detail) 2020 Wax, resin and pigment on glassware Various, approx 27 glassware pieces 159.2 cm x 37.5 cm x 45 cm   Photograph: Chloe Callistemon Photographs: Chloe Callistemon

In my animation Net casting 2020, liveliness unfolds through many logics and layers. An ecology of art, affinities and matter entangles boundaries between human beings and other species. Bird, frog and insect calls, as well as everyday acoustic noises, accompany the accumulation of shapes into patterns; signifiers of two perceptual worlds are superimposed and interlaced into spatial–temporal affinities. The relationship between the transformation of matter, ecology and painting is made explicit. The animation is named after a net casting spider that I observed as she patiently sat and watched the woven scroll/empty canvas/blank screen before her — a casting net to catch prey, like an artist waiting to problem find, not just problem solve.

 

Net casting (still) 2020 / High-definition video, colour, mono, 6:30 minutes (approx.) Link: https://vimeo.com/470836939
5. Axis of Dream is a painting of a girl embracing a horse by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery

What the Centre Cannot Hold, Ipswich Gallery 2019

Stair Ghost is a painting of the figure from an exit sign by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery
Stair Ghost 2019 oil on polyester 137 x 101cm
Madeleine Kelly What the Centre Cannot Hold. Ipswich Art Gallery 2019
What the Centre Cannot Hold. Ipswich Art Gallery 2019
1. Window bandit is a painting of potters wasps by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich City Gallery Milani Gallery
Window bandit 2019 oil on canvas 71 x 51 cm
5. Axis of Dream is a painting of a girl embracing a horse by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery
Axis of Dream 2018 oil on polyester  152 x 111.5 cm
2019 Ipswich Gallery View
2. The Passengers is a painting of aeroplane passengers based on Peruvian textile by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery Artist profile magazine
The Passengers 2019 oil on canvas and wool  textile from Peru 56 x 122 (painting) 168 x 160 cm
2. The Passengers is a painting of aeroplane passengers based on Peruvian textile by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery Artist profile magazine
The Passengers 2019 Oil on canvas 56 x 122 cm
7. No Comfort in the City is a by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery Leipzig LIA
No Comfort in the City 2016 oil on board 32 x 34 cm
Exhibtion View. (l/r) Nature natus 2019 oil on polyester 137 x 101 cm + Silent scream 2019 oil on canvas 66 x 137 cm 
4. Nature natus is a painting by madeleine Kelly shown at Ipswich Art Gallery Milani Gallery
Nature natus 2019 oil on polyester 137 x 101cm

Madeleine Kelly’s Painterly Morphology

 

Now lost somewhere in the annals of art history, it is a lesser known fact that Cubism at the time of its “invention” after 1907 was considered by its exponents and defenders as a realism. Perhaps the diminishment of this notion is because it is so hard to understand or justify. Yet it helps to explain that Cubism was not just a style, it was both a lens and a technique to define the world, to disclose the essences of forms as they existed in both time and space. It also helps to remind us that every major phase of painting has to be conceived in terms of invention, whether that be that of oil paint, one-point-perspective, down to the outlines of bison on a cave wall.

 

To many artists, a particular approach to painterly style is therefore not just a layer over nature but communion with its mechanisms: the workings of the picture in all its mysterious elements are a mirror to the ineffable operations of nature. Nature as not a spectacle, after all, it is the complex machine that always eludes us because we are both separate from and seamless with it. This is, I think, the best way of approaching Madeleine Kelly’s current work, namely as a means of exposing not just how things in the world are seen, but how it is that they work.

 

For that reason, it is only natural that this work turns to the vitalism of the artists,philosophers and poets active in the early twentieth century, ranging to the Orphist (Kupka) and Futurist (Balla and Boccioni) artists to Henri Bergson and W. B. Yeats. The title of this suite of works, What the Centre Cannot Hold derives from his poem, “The Second Coming” (1919) which is a warning against the control over the world.Bergson conceived the world and the cosmos as élan vitale, an energetics that emphasised the forces of animation and creation. Sound, movement, propulsion, creation and destruction, must all be seen as interconnected. Look at a cube of sugar, Berson advised, not as an isolated object, but rather conceive of it as the sugar cane before and its dissolution in your cup of coffee afterward. Things are to be seen in terms of their methods of mutation, as causal flow.

Window Bandit may be a coda for the exhibition, two wasps in mirror image, made after the artist witnessed one banging against a window pane. While the anecdotal starting point is a kind of absurdist, Sisyphean hopelessness, the texture and vibrancy of the work tells of something completely different. The angular and swirled layerings of opaque and diaphanous white allow us to sense the movement, the persistence of the insect, the bang on the window-pane, the interplay between different masses. The reflection of the wasp is emblematic of the act of painting itself, as a reflection of all these dynamic forces through abstractions that are resolved as a determinate aesthetic object. Knowing this makes it easier to interpret Silent Scream, a man listening intently to a fragment of a Greco-Roman sculpture, where the scream is not to be taken literally but more as an exchange between the time past that the sculpture embodies, and what the man is imagining about it.

 

Kelly’s approach to painting is one that begins with a series of idetic and other sensory compulsions—an aesthetic constellation not unlike a dream, but far more patiently considered—that form the basis of what may transpire on the canvas. These elements are then laid down, with the expectation that the answer to their configuration will come in the struggle requisite to the making. It is her intention not to start too schematically, but to discover and to resolve. There is something of an evolutionist narrative here, for Nature, too, does not always make the best or the most logical creations, yet through time and interaction, some form of resolution takes place.Paintings such as Stair Ghost and No Comfort in the City are always a balancing act between understanding what it is to be in and to see the world, and the process of painting itself.

In Axis of Dream, a figure just left of centre stands embedded within some industrial casing, which on second examination turns out to be a horse. Their bodies are not so much intertwined asbeingfused together in communion, the faces of both reserved and calm as a resultless of resignation than of care and kindness. Then, emerging from a shallow field on the right, intercalated with interlocking serpentine pipes, looms the ghost-like shape of another horse coming towards them. Overhead are sprays of orchid-cum-insects, their weightlessness and movement relayed through a rich play of blue graphic diamonds and circles of beige and white. It is a mistake to call these images surreal, except insofar as anything that is vaguely outlandish or unusual can connote a dream. Instead, if there is a more overarching message to be drawn from all of this work it is that yes, we are faced with some very serious problems because of what we have done to our world. And yes, we must find some very big solutions that are logistical and scientific.

 

But there other strategies afoot, and these are to listen, to wait, to watch, all of which will finally lead us to discover the many silent voices with which the world speaks to us. We will then respond to our world in a more considered way, and with more sensitivity.

 

Dr Adam Geczy 2018

index pic

Spin Out, Spun in, Milani Gallery 2019

Madeleine Kelly Installation view Spin out, Spun in
Installation view Spin out, Spun in
Me and my rhythm box made by Madeleine Kelly and shown in Spin out, spun in Milani Gallery resembles orphism and Delaunay. reshown in TRACE
Me and my rhythm box 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester 111.5 x 152cm

Spin out, spun in explores the aesthetic potential of circles, light and colour in relation to modernism’s legacy — an inherited, unstable environmental and socioeconomic ground. The title reflects the sense of disorientation associated with the pursuit of material and cosmic idealism in a society gravely ‘high’ on entropy.

Black and Blue kinetic painting of a single spinning disk made by Madeleine Kelly and shown in Spin out, spun in Milani Gallery
Black and Blue 2019 acrylic on polyester and mixed media (kinetic) 80 x 60 cm

In the paintings, modernist tropes are re contextualised to imply the contours of reality, organisms, eyes and their objects. In Me and my rhythm box, figures are inverted and reversed to evoke a syntax suggestive of the contingency of knowledge. The rhythm box suggests ecological movement, the endless repetition of economic systems or a political fight against the direction ‘progress’ is heading.

Mama Ocllo is a large kinetic painting of 16 spinning disks made by Madeleine Kelly and shown at Milani Gallery, printed in artist profile magazine
Mama Ocllo 2019 acrylic on polyester, aluminium composite board, stepper motors 179.4 x 184 cm Technical advisor: John Tonkin

The kinetic work, Mama Ocllo, transforms painting into an immersive spatio-temporal and sonic field. Drawing from the work of James Clerk Maxwell, who employed spinning disks to explore the differences in mixing light and mixing pigments, the work engages with fundamental issues of colour perception that bring aesthetics into the scientific fields of optics and physiology. In Incan mythology, Mama Ocllo, a fertility goddess, taught women the art of spinning thread. Her magical pre-modern origin reflects the generative revolutions of the structure. In this work, light is a metaphoric thread of vibrant transitions reflected from spinning different parts of the coloured spectrum, yet the harmonic vibration and wailing sound suggests humanity’s low blow on natural systems. This work also finds precedents in recent projects with similar rotating disks by Tobias Rehberger and Olafur Eliasson and references Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema and Rotoreliefs, and Sonia and Robert Delaunay’s vibrant Orphic compositions.

 

Eye-light assemblage (Painting for Meret) a painting by Madeleine Kelly based on Meret Oppenheim’s work shown at Milani Gallery
Eye-light assemblage (Painting for Meret) 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester 71 x 56 cm
Madeleine Kelly Spin out, Spun in
Installation shot, Spin out, Spun in
Stealing other artist's ideas (Painting for Mike) a painting by Madeleine Kelly of cuckoos based on Mike Kelley’s textile Cocks and Balls
Stealing other artist’s ideas (Painting for Mike) 2019 oil and acrylic on polyester 71 x 56 cm

In the series of bird paintings, colour and vision are interlinked to suggest co evolution and life forces that are ever-responding and mixing at the threshold of our awareness. For instance, In Stealing other artists’ ideas (Painting for Mike), the roosters in Mike Kelley’s Cocks and Balls (1988) textile are replaced with eastern koels. Part of the cuckoo family, the birds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds species who raise the cuckoo chicks as their own. Likewise, by using the archive of art, artists form symbiotic or parasitic relationships with the archive of art.

Canberra birds: Cute craft for the painting archive a series of 17 new abstract sculptures of Canberra birds made of encaustic on Tetra pak
Canberra Birds: Cute craft for the archive of painting 2018-19 Encaustic on cardboard with paper and text. 17 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable

In Canberra birds: Cute craft for the painting archive, part of an ongoing series examining the spectra of birds, bird patterning and colouration are rendered with encaustic wax painting on Tetra Paks. The time consuming activity is one in which living labour adds value to used packaging. It’s a gesture against the logic of an economic rationalism that deems activities like painting redundant.

Madeleine Kelly, January 2019

Binding Light (Painting for Hilma) a painting by Madeleine Kelly based on Hilma af Klimt’s work shown at Milani Gallery
Binding Light (Painting for Hilma) 2019, Oil and acrylic on polyester 71 x 56cm

1. Colour perception is a heritable characteristic of evolution. Opsin genes encode visual pigments in the eye that bind light. This eye–light assemblage made colour vision possible. See James K. Bowmaker, Evolution of vertebrate visual pigments, Vision Research, Volume 48, Issue 20, 2008, Pages 2022-2041, ISSN 0042-6989, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2008.03.025.

Bird Projects 2014-ongoing

Madeleine Kelly Spectra of birds 2014-15
 Encaustic on cardboard with paper and text 40 parts ranging from 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable Purchased 2015 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Collection: Queensland Art Gallery. Photograph: Natasha Harth, QAGOMA
Spectra of birds 2014-15
 Encaustic on cardboard with paper and text 40 parts ranging from 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable Purchased 2015 with funds from the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Diversity Foundation through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Collection: Queensland Art Gallery. Photograph: Natasha Harth, QAGOMA

This project is an ongoing diary of sorts. In these sculptures painted with encaustic wax, abstract images of birds primarily spotted in Australia are squeezed or trapped into the rectilinear architecture of empty Tetra Paks. The resulting expressionist distortions – angular in shape as determined by the cartons – are half bird and half cultural object, suggesting the continual commodification of nature, a world gradually destroying itself, and the transformation of rubbish. In capitulating to the cartons’ open spouts, the birds embody the phantasmatic property of everyday materials replete with associative meanings of myth and consumerism. Two modes of identity – birds/cartons and art / consumer material – are sustained simultaneously in a single object.

Madeleine Kelly Barren Grounds 2015 Encaustic on cardboard with paper 12 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 9 x 9cm x 23; installed dimensions variable
Barren Grounds 2015 Encaustic on cardboard with paper 12 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 9 x 9cm x 23; installed dimensions variable

From an art-historical perspective, the planes of colour recall the work of Color Field painter Ellsworth Kelly who attributes his minimal colour abstractions and the titles of his works to birdwatching as a young boy with his grandmother. Yet, in contrast to the restraint of formalist colour field painting, these birds might be said to return abstraction to its counterpart in nature, producing effects whereby the different permutations of colour and combinations of form embrace diversity, visual analogy and the aesthetic quality of these remarkable animals. The category depends on the intersection of birds that are seen and are therefore made, but their squashed states also suggest a crisis – those endangered, betrayed or disappeared.

Leipzig birds 2016-17 Encaustic  on cardboard with paper 23 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable
Birds of the D’Aguliar Range 2017 Encaustic  on cardboard with paper 14 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 30 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable. Collection, University of Queensland Art Gallery
Madeleine Kelly Pelagic Birds 2017
Pelagic birds 2017, Encaustic on cardboard with paper and text 23 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable Photograph Bernie Fischer.​​
Madeleine Kelly Canberra Birds: Cute craft for the archive of painting 2018-19 Encaustic on cardboard with paper and text. 17 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable
Canberra Birds: Cute craft for the archive of painting 2018-19 Encaustic on cardboard with paper and text. 17 parts ranging from approximately 8 x 11 x 11cm to 27 x 9 x 9cm; installed dimensions variable
GOMA QLD publication.
Madeleine Kelly Install shot exhibition Forms of Agency

Forms of Agency, c3 Contemporary Art Space 2018

1. The Pollinator is a painting by Madeleine Kelly featuring pumpkin flowers shown at the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize Milani Gallery
The Pollinator, 2018 Acrylic and oil on polyester 137 x 101cm
Allowable forms and unconscious facts is a painting by Madeleine Kelly, it won the 2018 sunshine coast art prize Milani Judge Dr Campbell Gray
Allowable forms and unconscious facts 2018 Acrylic and oil on polyester 137 x 101cm
3. The brush-tipped tongue of a honeyeater functions in the same way as a paint brush is a painting by Madeleine Kelly Milani Gallery
The brush-tipped tongue of a honeyeater functions the same way as a paint brush 2018 Acrylic and oil on polyester 137 x 101cm
2. How to look at a hexagon is a painting by Madeleine Kelly on army tarpaulin two people embrace shown C3 Contemporary art space Milani GalleryMadeleine Kelly How to look at a hexagon 2018 acrylic and oil on tarpaulin 115 x 125 cm
How to look at a hexagon 2018 acrylic and oil on tarpaulin 115 x 125 cm
How to look at a hexagon 2018, Acrylic and oil on polyester, 115 x 125 cm
Struggling with the honeyeaters is a painting by Madeleine Kelly about the earths carrying capacity shown C3 Contemporary art space Milani Gallery
Struggling with the honeyeaters 2018, Acrylic and oil on polyester, 137 x 101cm

Inspired by the symbolic elements and motifs that encode Peruvian textile imagery with meaning and compositional logic, these paintings evoke a sense of the known through their interconnected patterns and typological imagery. By working within the constraints of certain geometric patterns, I challenge myself to formally interlace richly complex ways of seeing and knowing. This iconographic system allows me to connect abstract, expressive and representational painting in such a way that inter-iconic relationships emerge and give rise to a multitude of different aesthetics. At times, resulting crystalline effects extend living forms into geology and the irregular geometry of my previous works. The paintings present structural affinities between the figures and their grounds that suggest forms of knowing are contingent on the conditions from which they emerge. The title of the exhibition – Forms of Agency – reflects this relationship between textiles, painting and agency.

 

The paintings hence bring disparate fields together via geometric abstraction. Geometric motifs suggest how knowledge includes and excludes, and is shaped and built. Their separating lines provide me with a space to explore how forms can both shape and are shaped by structures, including ideological ones, such as the utopian promise of consumer culture. Each painting features the trace of a domestic object that appears as a 1:1 blueprint or diagram and corresponds to our corporeal expectations. Their structures inspire analogy and give rise to metaphor and association, and are a counterpoint to the physicality of my bird sculptures, which were squeezed into the rectilinear formations of Tetra Paks. The process of finding forms and weaving imagery into their patterns is my way of understanding the world, of continuously determining relations.

 

The Pollinator was initially inspired by the act of pollinating pumpkin flowers using my paintbrush. Afterwards I spent time admiring their forms while drawing them onto isomorphic paper. By making them conform to the triangular matrix their wilted petals appeared as sections of faceted crystal vessels or wombs, while their whole forms also reminded me of Giacomo Balla’s futurist flowers. The brush that enabled the flower to bear fruit was the same one that painted them. Yet in the image the brush appears as axe – as taker. The mineral and geometric structures allow the composition to grow like crystalline life forms. These structures become the vital life of the painting, crossing categories between human, plant and cultural object, while the doubling of archetypal figures and mythic architecture suggests genealogy and the fragmented mirroring of meaning through time.

 

Allowable forms and unconscious facts features the trace of a domestic oven that appears as a 1:1 blueprint or diagram and corresponds to our corporeal expectations. Its structure inspires analogy and give rise to metaphor and association. Circular stovetop plates resemble an egg, eyes and breasts while a slumped head, confronted by an eyeball/balloon/sperm, points to a troubled developmental stage for humanity. Bodily connotations ride on domestic ones.

Madeleine Kelly 2017 Diversity and Demise Encounters with pelagic birds and sub-linguistic form Wollongong City Gallery 11 February - 14 May

Diversity and demise, Wollongong City Gallery 2017

Madeleine Kelly 2017 Diversity and Demise Encounters with pelagic birds and sub-linguistic form Wollongong City Gallery 11 February - 14 May
2017 Diversity and Demise Encounters with pelagic birds and sub-linguistic form Wollongong City Gallery
The Trawler 2017, acrylic and oil on polyester 213 x 167cm
Port Kembla, 2016, oil on gesso board 32 x 42.5cm
Madeleine Kelly, Leipzig birds, 2017, encaustic on cardboard with painted paper mounted on Aluminium sheet 176 x 116cm Photograph Bernie Fischer
Leipzig birds 2017 encaustic on cardboard with painted paper mounted on Aluminium sheet 176 x 116cm Photograph Bernie Fischer

The works in Diversity and Demise: Encounters with pelagic forms and sub-linguistic forms advances my research with respect to typographical forms by learning from documentation I have made of Peruvian and Mexican art. Forms evolve within the order of geometric patterns. This new compositional method is a significant shift in my work, allowing me to depict narratives as though they are part of a complex geometric iconographic system. The works test typographic abstraction, sublinguistic forms and display.

While painting remains core, my practice is enhanced by interrelationships with other mediums. For instance, my approach to figurative abstraction can be seen in the architectonic forms of my bird sculptures, whose bodies are determined by distorted Tetra Paks. Increasingly, I critique painting as a form of knowledge that refers to itself and questions its own limits.

 

The Trawler 2017
The Trawler is a portrait of human identity and hunger for power. The central figure, shown commanding the space, is an awkward giant with arms that terminate in fishhooks. Her head – a crane that bows clumsily and shamefully over her colossal body – denotes the utilitarian mentality of industrialised fishing, or any factory farming for that matter. Certain geometry abides. Scintillating blocks of colour accumulate throughout her monumental torso, encoding a human face. The motif of the face is repeated, but with each repetition increasingly erased. Around her figure, squares and diamonds form the foundation for ascending albatross. In the background, fishing vessels composed of flat blocks are inspired by artist Kazimir Malevich’s approach to abstraction. My approach to geometric abstraction also recalls the different colour combinations and permutations in the textile iconography of Cusco, Peru, and formally connects to my bird sculptures. The fishing vessel at the top of the painting is based on an image of the Atlantic Dawn, weighing 14 055 tones was the world’s biggest factory trawler to plunder African fish stocks in 2003.

 

Port Kembla 2016
Port Kembla is a bleak image of the Port Kembla steelworks in which coke ovens, steel-making buildings, stacks, a conveyer gallery and billowing steam serve as structural devices of confinement for abstract figures. At night, gas flares tint the hazy sky peach-pink. A couple convey my perceptual experience of this unique architectural space. With flat square heads carved out of a single brushstroke, the couple possess a haunted air, as if existing solely to inhabit the border that separates real dramatic industry and painted space. Their surreal partnership is watched by a solitary figure. Abstract wedges mirror the perspectival extremes in this inspiring architecture. I love its measured eccentricity and archaic beauty.