John Kelly

Dobell's Cow (Backward Point), 1989
oil on wood
22.0 x 30.0 cm
signed, dated and inscribed with title (on the reverse)

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Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney since circa 1992

For the artist John Kelly, the curious tale of Australian Modernism in 'Dobell's Cows' served as an early inspiration, resulting in several series of paintings and sculptures.

When the Australian artist, Sir William Dobell, was engaged to furnish grass airfields with camouflage cows over the course of The Second World War, the directive was assured to deceive Japanese airmen. Of little bearing on the outcome of the war, the project contained a perfect measure of elements both absurd and serious, which in all their sophistry provided a rich cultural archive from which this cow comes. The heroic age of Australian Modernism in the 1940s left an indelible edge of anarchy and humour with Kelly, the artist.

''In these ongoing painterly narratives the cow acquires a history and takes on its own curious reality. You read these beautifully painted works as humorous forays into the artist's inventiveness and the poignantly quizzical cows as metaphors for aspects of Australian culture and colonial history, or even enigmatic signifiers of art' shifting purposes and the puzzling situations in which it finds itself.'' (Victoria Hammond, Melbourne, July 1999)

  • Dobell's Cow (Backward Point)

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Having emigrated from Bristol, UK in 1965, the year of his birth, Kelly settled with his family in Sunshine Victoria. He trained at RMIT emerging first with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in painting, then with his Master of Arts in 1995. From years 1996 to 1997 he studied at the Slade School of Art in London as an affiliate student under the Anne and Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship. Kelly is well known for his paintings and sculptures of William Dobell's WWII decoy cows and his images based on the logo of the Arts Council of Australia. Kelly is represented by Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney. He lives and works in Cork, Ireland.