What the centre cannot hold Ipswich Gallery 2019
In this series of six new paintings, What the centre cannot hold, images of local flowers and seed pods are interwoven with disparate images drawn from a variety of sources. I explore the capacity of the eye to make sense of abstractions and to create abstractions by drawing forms onto gridded paper, creating planar shapes with structural vitality. The forms of frangipani flowers and seed pods from the hibiscus, crow’s ash and Gymea lily plants, reminiscent of Giacomo Balla’s futurist flowers, draw upon the modernist language of cubism and futurism. The title of the series is taken from William Yeats’ dark poem The Second Coming (1919) which, for me, resonates with the pressure of our times – times in which systems increasingly control life. Plant bodies that have broken open embody an urgency to rethink formations that the centre—power—cannot hold or control. The finished paintings present a complex realm where references from mythology, politics and art history intersect with my concern for the environment. What the centre cannot hold was displayed at Ipswich Art Gallery in the Stage Gallery, 2 July – 7 October 2019 1. Window bandit 2. The Passengers 3. Silent scream 4. Nature natus 5. Axis of Dream 6. Stair Ghost 7. No Comfort in the City (reshown). My paintings draw from a field of research that encompasses figuration and abstraction. Plant forms allow the compositions to grow and are generative qualities that become the vital life of the painting. My research questions how geometrically rendered forms can act as a mirror to the ineffable operations of nature and as a trope to the living work. A separate but related question asks how I can experiment with pictorial abstraction by drawing on the history of painting and Andean textile design.
Painting, Australian, Artist, Madeleine Kelly, Botanical, Flowers, Andean textile design, Australian painting; 1. Window bandit 2. The Passengers 3. Silent scream 4. Nature natus 5. Axis of Dream 6. Stair Ghost 7. No Comfort in the City (reshown).
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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 transpireon the canvas. These elements are then laid down, with the expectation that the answer to their configuration will come in the struggle requisite to themaking. 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, yetthrough time and interaction, some form of resolution takes place.Paintings such as Stair Ghostand No Comfort in the Cityare 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

Gallery

Ipswich Gallery, QLD

Date

13 Jul - 07 Oct 2019