Toronto experimentalist art photographer Kevin Kelly’s never been one to stand on his considerable laurels. He’s more about creating works which fuse form, content and cultural relevance into a narrative.
That narrative is sustained and developed by each of the show’s works. The current exhibition, Rock and Religion, at Akasha Art Projects (511 Church St.) till Saturday Oct. 13, offers images of pop music icons and Biblical billboards on a canvas of brushed steel. With pieces average 40 lbs, Kelly’s art is weighty in form and content, the later being a meditation on the similarities and differences between Rock and Religion.
“ On a drive down to Kentucky I saw the two signs: "If you died today, where would you spend eternity?" and ‘HELL IS REAL’ We were late for a dinner engagement so we couldn’t stop. The billboards made me angry and on the way back, we retraced the route. After I photographed one sign I discovered they were double sided signs. So the four pieces were all shot in minutes.
“The signs made me angry because they were all about manipulation through Fear. The presumption of some to believe they have some kind of de facto authority over others.
“ I’m hoping the show will generate discussion along those lines.”
The consummate experimentalist, Kelly spent months belt-sanding specially prepared pieces of steel in various shapes and sizes, working like an old time sculptor visualizing the image within the marble. Onto these are printed images of a variety of rock icons, having only in common that he’s a fan of their music.
“ It was at rock shows that I was first struck with the similarities between rock and religion. Both promise an intense emotional experience, both are communal experiences and both have ritualized ways of dressing and speaking. Both are also looking to influence the audience in a certain way. “
‘As for the medium, I’ve been working with photography and metals for 15 years. I’ve evolved techniques which are unique to me, which makes me reluctant to reveal details of the process.
“ The steel comes from the mill coated with a grey anti-oxidation paint and I remove that with about 95% totality. I’ve learnt over time that keeping areas of various densities of the paint creatures a textural surface, which allows me to add dimension and explore the complexities of the gray scale.
“ I had to develop a unique method of hanging the pieces involving having the metal cut and bent in ways that took some very fine tuning. The people at Akasha also deployed their own security hanging to make sure nothing fell on anybody.”
Among the artists featured are Prince, Teenage Head, Bryan Ferry, Brendan (Broken Social Scene) Canning, Bruce Cockburn and the kind of billboards Moses would have brought down from the mountain had all that gone down in 2012.
“My shows are intended to generate dialogue and all feedback is most welcome. The best feeling is when someone comes up right there and gives some honest, of the moment input. Good or bad, it’s all about the passion and if the work generates it, that’s excellent.”
What would be the creative end point for many is for Kelly but another stage in the process. There’s an element to this show which makes it the ultimate ‘work in progress.’
“The process is still coming together and at this point it’s impossible to fix the image. So it won’t last forever nor do I know how long it will last and what will happen to the image as it ages.
“For me, that’s part of the attraction. That the images aren't static but will change and evolve or devolve over time.
“So far the reaction to that aspect of the pieces has been positive. Public Good (design firm) brought a couple and when I mentioned the uncertainty principle, they too thought that was an intriguing aspect and made them desirable acquisitions.”
For anyone in the ‘hood, Kevin Kelly hosts the official closing party tonight Thur. Oct. 11 at Akasha Art Projects (511 Church St.) from 7 –9 pm.