A question of taste - John Kelly

John Kelly: West Cork-based artist.

John Kelly is an artist. His father is from Cork, and mother from Bristol. The family emigrated to Australia in 1965, the year of John’s birth. Kelly has lived in all three countries and for the past decade has resided in West Cork. This week, his exhibition, John Kelly: A Group Show, will open at Uillinn in Skibbereen.

Best recent book: The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, a 2011 book by Jon Ronson. The world is full of psychopaths and I met a pretty ugly one in Cork a few years back. I read this to try and understand how they work. Fascinating to think so many walk among us and are in positions of responsibility.

Best recent film: Six Degrees of Separation directed by Fred Schepisi. It’s a film I had missed back in the 1990s but caught up with recently. Not unrelated to the psychopath I met in Cork in that the main character tells great big lies that people really want to believe and therefore become complicit in the lie. A brilliant director and film!

Best recent show: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Gate Theatre – the descent into madness… is there a theme developing here? As somebody who briefly lectured at university I recognised the madness of the characters’ frustrated lives. Brilliant cast and performance.

A question of taste - John Kelly

What formats do you access music on? Radio mainly. Tom Dunne on Newstalk is good later at night.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately: Fintan McKahey — West Cork musician who is just starting out and impressed with a gig at Connolly’s in Leap recently.

First ever piece of art that really moved you: A Madonna and Child sculpture in a church in Brugge I saw in 1988. Not sure why it moved me but it is the only time I have prayed or wished for anything whilst looking at art — and it all came to pass. I thought it was a Michelangelo; however, when I went back years later it turned out it was by an unknown artist. I was also struck by all the thank you notes on the wall dating back to the First World War (Michelangelo’s sculpture was in another part of the church).

The best gig or show/exhibition you’ve ever seen: Stanley Spencer’s Sandham Chapel in Burghclere in England. It was the first art experience I shared with my future wife Christina. It was on a beautiful summer’s day and to see this little known chapel is to see Spencer develop as an artist, from struggling in the first few panels to the great artist he was, all in this one very moving work.

TV viewing: We don’t watch TV anymore. We do watch Netflix and I love science, so I watch the latest physics on things like the Perimeter Institute video library.

Radio listening: I love Newstalk’s Seán Moncrieff — intelligent and witty and then in bed at night I listen to Ted Talks to get to sleep. Amazing how soporific they are.

Name three of your artistic heroes: Giacometti (sculpture). Kafka (writing), Fred Williams (painter).

Your best celebrity encounter: A toss up between Barry Humphries opening my exhibition in London in 1997 and meeting the beautiful Princess Caroline (in her dress of zips) in Monaco during 2002. She opened the Le Parade de Animaux and then had drinks with us at the casino.

Favourite ever item of clothing: My wife’s bra on the bedroom floor!

Tech habits: Iphone 6 Plus — I use it for everything. In fact I think it now thinks for me also.

A question of taste - John Kelly

Unsung heroes: I live in Union Hall and am in awe of the voluntary lifeboat crews who give their time and risk their lives for others on the unforgiving sea.

Also Fergus O’Mahony at Mary Anns in Castletownshend — art, alcohol and food. Nobody else does it as well in West Cork.

You are king for a day — what’s your first decree? All directors and curators in public art institutions should be on four year fixed contracts and like the US president should be limited to a maximum of two. It’s the only way to stop contemporary art becoming stale, boring and predictable, which it is becoming!


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