Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Earthbound Magic

In 1988 I wrote a letter to artist Percy Kelly asking if he would have an exhibition at Castlegate House. His vehement refusal arrived by return on a sheet of paper with a lovely drawing on it. There was no way he was going to have an exhibition anywhere he wrote but he added that he did want to be famous after his death. funny that- most artists are desperate for fame in their lifetimes. But then PK was no ordinary artist. So I took up the baton determined to promote him after he had departed this world.
He died 15 years ago and I have at last delivered!
Last Tuesday, in a large gallery room, thick with the scent of flowers, I watched red spot after red spot appear on his paintings. This was in Messums Gallery in Cork Street London. Percy had made it!
Melvyn Bragg was an early visitor, Rosanna of the Purple House in Newlands, a couple who had queued outside my gallery all night in 1998 to buy a Kelly, a director of Sekers Silk who had encouraged him in the sixties and many many more crowded into the room.
On Monday17th an article in The Spectator headed MORE REAL ART PLEASE written by art critic Andrew Lambirth praised Percy's work and lauded the exhibition.
I have no hesitation in recommending the work of Percy Kelly (1918–93). Kelly was a strange and somewhat tortured man who also happened to be a brilliant draughtsman. Not many people in his lifetime knew this because he refused to exhibit or sell his work, and used to hide it away if even an admiring visitor (such as L.S. Lowry) came to call; he was convinced that Lowry would steal his ideas. Born in Workington, Cumberland, Kelly managed to exile himself from his beloved home-county — partly through a temperamental inability to earn money — first to Pembrokeshire and finally to Norfolk. The best of Kelly’s output is the grand series of powerfully mesmeric charcoal drawings he made in the late-1950s, mostly of landscape. They bear comparison with the cream of Sheila Fell’s work (which he knew and admired), but have a solidity and conviction, an earthbound magic, which is all his own.
He also got half a page in the Eastern Daily Press. Ian Collins wrote

Kelly's exquisite drawings and paintings soar above his muddle and trauma of his life in a final note of triumph
Hey - this is not the end - the best is yet to come!