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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jane Kelly

If We Could Undo Psychosis I, ca. 2000, Jane Kelly
Have you ever had something bad happen to you and then fallen into the "if only" pit of depression and remorse, blaming self and/or others, wishing you could just go back and "undo" everything. There is, in fact, an entire branch of fictional writing called counterfactual history, with titles usually starting out using the two words, "What if." (What if the South Had Won the Civil War?) For the history buff, such questions make for fascinating reading, though historically, they're of little consequence. The British painter, Jane Kelly, dipped her heavily laden paint brush into this genre of counterfactual history making visual statements, such as depicting Adolph Hitler, dressed as a tourist, sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower If We Could Undo Psychosis I (above). As might be expected the painting was controversial. She painted a sequel, If We Could Undo Psychosis II (below). It too was controversial, only more so. It actually got her fired from her job. In comparing the two works, the first painting would seem more likely to have resulted in such an outcome.

If We Could Undo Psychosis II, 2004, Jane Kelly
Self-portrait as a Victoria Sponge
Sandwich, Jane Kelly
Before going on, in case you wish to pursue Jane Kelly on the Internet, be forewarned, there is also a Jane Kelly, the porn actress, and another Jane Kelly who appears to be an environmental artist. It's a fairly common name so there are probably others as well. This Jane Kelly is a London-born, former journalist dating from 1956. She studied history and art in college, graduating from Scotland's Stirling University in 1978. Later she worked briefly as an instructor at a Polish university. Returning to England, Jane Kelly studied art again starting in 1995. Jane Kelly took an Advanced Diploma in Painting at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, during which time she worked as a journalist at The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, The Guardian and The Daily Mail, the paper which fired her for exhibiting Psychosis II at the 2004 Stuckists Punk Victorian show during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial (below).

The 2004 Stuckist Punk Victorian Show, Walker Gallery, Liverpool, England.
In order to understand all this, a little background regarding the painting is needed. At face value, the painting does not appear controversial in the least, though neither the title nor the image itself offers much in the way of visual clues. The painting depicts a young mother in the background. Her child, with a stuffed bear (bearing a strong resemblance to Winnie the Pooh), is held by what appears to be a very stern, white-haired nanny. But Mary Poppins she's not. That "nanny" is Myra Hindley. If you're British with sufficiently long memory, that name might "ring a bell." Myra and her boyfriend, Ian Brady, were the serial killers of several Manchester children around 1963, known then as the "Moors Murders." Knowing that, coupled with the title, the controversy over the painting begins to make sense. The painting, as does that of Hitler (top), falls into the "what if" school of counterfactual history. The Daily Mail apparently didn't much like one of their columnist dabbling in such visual nonsense.

Paul Dacres' Prawn Cocktail, 2005, Jane Kelly
The painting in question sold for 3,500 pounds. The Daily Mail claims that Jane Kelly's dismissal had nothing to do with the painting or her freedom of speech, though Jane never was given a reason for her firing. So, what does an unemployed, former journalist, turned artist do? She paints a picture of her former boss, Paul Dacres's Prawn Cocktail (above). Kelly had this to say about the man and her painting and The Daily Mail: "...a little bit of taste, but very predictable, bland and no surprises—it's from a different age where people had a more limited palate." Pretty mild, she could have painted him with a Hitler moustache blocking traffic on Fleet Street (even though the last newspaper office left there in 2005.)

No less hard on herself than her colleagues, Jane Kelly's Jane the Shelf,
confronts her marital status.
Stuckism and Jane Kelly are a perfect match. Stuckism came about as a movement thumbing their nose at the Tate Gallery's embracing of conceptual art with their famed Turner Prize. The Stuckist movement awarded Kelly the "Real Turner Prize" in 2004." Not satisfied with attacking her boss, Kelly also went after Tim Walker, the theatre critic of the Daily Mail's rival, The Sunday Telegraph, with her show, "Stupid English Men," was held in the Brighton gallery, Art Café, in 2006. Her painting was stolen from the gallery. Kelly also has a preoccupation with the Holocaust and Anne Frank, terming herself a "Post-holocaust" painter. Two of her paintings, The Deposition I and The Deposition II, deal with political assassination (a thinly veiled reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) in the manner of  traditional classical artists' handling of Christ's deposition from the cross. In 2010, Jane Kelly was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She continues to write, maintaining an Internet blog she calls, icantbelieveitsrealcancer.

My Family, ca. 1995, Jane Kelly.
It's not her own family, but anglophiles might recognize them.


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