Diarmuid Kelley: painting with light, balance and a 'loaded stillness'

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Diarmuid Kelley: painting with light, balance and a 'loaded stillness'
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  Around the galleries Diarmuid Kelley’s painting: Light,  balance and ‘loaded stillness’    —   February 2014  Associated media   All cats are grey –    but Diarmuid Kelley’s paintings are anything but, as Rosalind Ormiston discovers Diarmuid Kelley: ‘All Cats Are   Grey’ at Offer Waterman & Co., London   For a few weeks until the end of February, 2014, at Offer Waterman & Co gallery in Chelsea, London, one can have the pleasure of viewing a superb collection of 2011 – 13 paintings by the gifted artist Diarmuid Kelley in his exhibition titled ‘All Cats are Grey’. Nineteen of his artworks, both portraits and still lifes, are on display.  Kelley, born in Stirling, Scotland in 1972, studied Fine Art at Newcastle University. He graduated in 1995 and  went on to take a Master’s degree at Chelsea College of Art and Design, 1996 – 7. His studied interest in, and development of, traditional portraiture is in contrast to the zeitgeist that heralded and promoted the  ‘young British artists’   who dominated public perceptions of the period. The artist’s work hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, in London, with private commissions from the HRH Duchess of Cornwall and from the Duke of Devonshire, serving to highlight how much he is in demand as a portraitist. Offer Waterman & Co was established in 1996 and held the first show of Kelley’s work in 1998. They are specialist dealers in modern and contemporary British art. Each year they hold one special exhibition in the Langton Street gallery, which is fine town house in a quiet street close to the King’s Road. It is spread over three floors. Paintings are displayed throughout the house, in the reception rooms and on stairs and landings, which gives the feeling that one is viewing the works in a private home. The soft light that filters through each room creates a perfect setting for artworks. Kelley has now held five solo shows at Offer Waterman & Co. It is a special relationship that succeeds for both artist and dealer.  One can instantly recognize Diarmuid Kelley’s work by the quality of light that is present in every painting that he produces. His fascination with the use of light in European paintings, from the dramatic, theatrical lighting found in paintings by the Italian artist Caravaggio(1571 – 1610), to the delicate light present in paintings by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 75), it is the source of light in their paintings that creates mood and narrative. He states tha t he wants to capture a ‘loaded stillness’, and to create the right balance Kelley has adapted the candlelit methods used by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734 – 97), and painters of the Dutch Golden Age.   Within his studio he has constructed a box-type set. It is a small room within the studio space, which has a  window frame on one side to bring in strong light. The other sides of this room are curtained to control the amount of light that enters the space, taking light away, not adding to it. Within this small room his live models are placed. The results of this method are evident in all his works, such as Winterreise  (2013),  A Forest   (2013), and  Head of a Girl  (2013), all on display in ‘All Cats are Grey’. (The exhibition title is taken from a song by The Cure, ‘All Cats are Grey’, featured on the 1981 album    Faith .)  Another quality in Kelley’s work is the presence of narrative. Although the models are anonymous –  Kelley asks friends to pose for him –  each imparts the sense that the painting is a snapshot of a life unseen by the viewer. A moment in time is captured. This adds mystery and a quiet, contemplative aura to each portrait. In addition each  work, although completed, has the look of a not-quite-finished work, such as drips of paint running down the canvas, or parts of the canvas left unpainted. It gives the impression that everything has been said without need to add more, and so the work is finished. In the current show of 19 artworks, all but two are already sold. This special exhibition is an opportunity to view many of Diarmuid Kelley’s works in a perfect setting.  Rosalind Ormiston London Independent art historian  www.rosormiston.com  First published in Cassone  online arts magazine  www.cassone-art.com, February 2014 http://www.cassone-art.com/magazine/article/2014/02/diarmuid-kelleys-painting-light-balance-and-loaded-stillness/?psrc=around-the-galleries 
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