Important Australian + International Fine Art
9 May 2007

John Kelly

born 1965

oil on canvas

168.0 x 183.0 cm

signed lower right: Klly [sic.] 97 inscribed verso: HOMAGE TO/ SIR SID/ 1997/ 66" x 72"

$55,000 - 75,000
Sold for $60,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 1 - 9 May 2007, Melbourne

Niagara Galleries, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

My intention is to create work that encapsulates the concepts and ideas that intrigue me. I take historical subjects... and my own personal experience to build a framework within which I can create my own vision of things...Through this I generate visual ideas and concepts in paintings and sculptures that create their own history by engaging the real world as works of art...I like to create works that reach beyond their absurdity to reflect something of my visual and intellectual environment.'1

Just as John Kelly's playful yet sophisticated cow paintings were inspired by a comedic episode of Australian history- the creation of papier-mâché cows by William Dobell during World War II as camouflage to deceive enemy warcraft- so too Homage to Sir Sid 1997 derives its impetus from the past.

Continuing the artist's interest in the humorous transposition of animals in the landscape, the work directly references his artistic predecessor, Sidney Nolan, who himself was not unaccustomed to imbuing his art with an element of the absurd or bizarre. In particular, the present work bears strong allusions to Nolan's famous composition from his Kelly series, The Slip 1947 (National Gallery of Australia) where one of the police horses is portrayed suspended upside down in mid-air; as Nolan mused, 'I decided to put the horse upside down and give levitation another aspect... It is a dreadful descent and the horse will fall forever.'2 More generally perhaps, the work pays homage to the desiccated carcase paintings of Nolan's 'Desert and Drought series' which not only featured animals floating in undefinable spaces but, when first exhibited, were purposefully displayed as though floating away from the wall- suspended from a beam four metres high so as to evoke a sense of space and heighten the insubstantial, almost weightless quality of their subjects.

With such skilful interplay of intelligent commentary and humour, reality versus non-reality, indeed Homage to Sir Sid remains eloquent testimony to the artist's widely acclaimed ability to transform the bizarre into the beautiful.

1. Kelly cited in Cow Up A Tree (Vache Dans Un Arbre), Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 1999, exhibition catalogue, p.12
2. Nolan cited in Lynn, E., Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly: The Ned Kelly Paintings in the AustralianNational Gallery and A Selection of the Artist's Sketches for the Series, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1985, p.42