Brendan Kelly

Like so many artists creating in the current moment, Brendan Kelly’s new series, ‘Trouble in the Order’, draws on the vicissitudes of 2020. From the ravaging bushfires to the COVID-19 pandemic, disappointment, upheaval and loss has defined the Australian experience – and, certainly, that of the world. Frustration has precipitated as our belief systems and ideologies have been brought into question. The ground has crumbled beneath us, and there is, indeed, trouble in the order.

A former stand-up comedian and children’s author, Kelly casts a critical eye on contemporary life – his new paintings exploring our fraught recent and current experiences. Through a troupe of discombobulated characters and tones evoking the Australian landscape, the artist aims to draw the viewer into a surreal visual world of struggle and fragmentation. The skeletal yet visceral portrait At this time visualises the cognitive crunch that many of us have faced, especially in periods of isolation where the fragility of mental health comes into focus. Meanwhile, the rectangular television-style faces in Asylum, adorned with a single omniscient eye, further hints at the psychological incarceration of self-isolation.

Yet, at the same time, Kelly also questions if there was really ever any ‘order’ to life, pondering perceptions of normality. Is anything really ‘wrong’, or is it just our flawed expectations? Do we not exist on a continuum, treading an evolutionary path riddled with hurdles? After all, what is order and what is disorder? The artist does not propose an acceptance of disaster, but rather a contemplation of how we have the potential to shape our road into the future; to create our own ‘order’. In Leap, we see a protagonist willing to jump into the unknown, leading with their eye and mind, unencumbered by the mess of the present moment.

Brendan Kelly: Trouble in the Order
14 November – 5 December
The Wellington Gallery, Sydney

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