Marty Kelly

Marty Kelly's current work is being made in response to media coverage of events and as a result of periods spent working with asylum seekers and refugees in the UK and in Calais.  He explores issues of unity and separatism and how we identify with each other through compassion, love, gratitude, acceptance, pity and fear.


Marty Kelly was born in 1979 in Carndonagh, Donegal. He attended the University of Ulster in Belfast and graduated in 2000 with an honours fine arts degree in painting. From the onset Kelly’s early figurative work challenged much of the expressionist figurative painting being produced in Ireland. Since those first few early years, Kelly has traversed diverse territories, literally and metaphorically. Under the expanse of the northerly Irish light, his reflections gave form to a transitional state of mind. In the Balkans he extracted an undefeatable human spirit from the depths of the darkness. In India he probed a seemingly inaccessible understanding of being one amongst many. And in Barcelona, with these earlier investigations stripped bare and amalgamated, Kelly’s work grasped at the essence of simply ‘being’. For most, the definition of being is ‘to exist’. For Kelly it is more specific: the moments grasped between chaos, chosen or imposed. The brief interludes between highly charged moves in the expression of dance. The resurrection of a smile between atrocities. 


Stealthily moving into Kelly’s oeuvre of figures and small open faces, has been an enigmatic beauty that whispers simultaneously of disquieting truths. Baudelaire once responded to Goya’s ‘beautiful’ and ‘distorted’ figures, sensing “a love of the ungraspable, a feeling for violent contrasts, for the blank horrors of nature and for human countenances weirdly animalized by circumstances.”

Kelly burrows deep into the submerged ungraspable to retrieve vestiges of being; his little smiling faces forever distancing the distorted.