Paul Kelly; The Portraits, Photos & Stories

From the beginnings of rock’n’roll, photography has played a vital role in documenting rock music, as well as conveying the essence of musicians, their songs, character and distinctive stage presence.

From May 23 until July 20, the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery will play host to Paul Kelly & The Portraits, an exhibition that brings together the works of industry photographers, artists, pieces from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and loaned works. Combining candid, live performance and studio shorts the images in the exhibition capture the multi-faceted nature of Paul Kelly’s life and career from the 1970s onwards.

The touring exhibition is presented by the National Portrait Gallery in conjunction with Shark Island Productions and the support of The Caledonia Foundation. Shark Island Productions is an award-winning, independent documentary house based in Sydney, hosting screenings and establishing communities of influence around the art of documentary filmmaking and storytelling. Co-supporting, The Caledonia Foundation is a private philanthropic organization that seeks to make a sustainable difference to improve the lives of young Australians through creative community partnerships. Both institutions were keys supporters of the award winning documentary and precursory insight to the musician’s life Paul KellyStories of Me (2012), which will screen in conjunction with the exhibition.

In addition to pulling back the curtain on one of Australia’s best-known yet highly mysterious musicians, the works of the exhibition and acclaimed documentary will serve an educational role. The exhibition’s launch last year coincided with the release of a range of educational resources to help secondary school teachers better utilize Kelly’s work in teaching English and music.

Indeed, it cannot be denied that Paul Kelly’s work has contributed significantly to an understanding of Australian culture, his words and music marking out our country’s landscape and people for over 30 years. His songs have been described as landscapes in their own right, as they chart not just the physical terrain, but the emotional landscapes he and his contemporaries have walked through.

While Paul Kelly – Stories of Me strives to dig deeply into what makes Kelly tick, the portraiture exhibition leaves much room for interpretation. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of seeing the collection of portraits or depictions is that for most part, Kelly remains an enigma. Rather than telling us who the man behind the music is, every portrait gives the viewer a glimpse of Kelly as perceived or captured by each unique artist within the exhibition.

The artists of varied background and relationship to Kelly include Greg Noakes, Wendy McDougall, Tony Mott, Martin Philbey, Liz Reid, Peter Brew-Bevan, Bleddyn Butcher, Jon Campbell, Peter Hudson, Stu Spence and Jon Lewis. In contrast to the still portraits of Paul Kelly dating back to the late 1970s stands a newly commissioned digital video portrait of Kelly by writer, director and cinematographer Warwick Thornton, with funds provided by Ian Darling in 2013.

Tickets for Paul Kelly & The Portraits can be purchased through the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. As part of the exhibition, the MPRG will present Paul Kelly – Stories of Me­ at the Mornington Cinemas on the evening of July 15.


Photo Credits:
Pic #1: John Campbell, Paul Kelly 2004, Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Pic #2: Peter Hudson, ‘Words and Music’, Portrait of Paul Kelly 2007, Collection: Maureen Ritchie
Pic #3: Jon Lewis, Paul Kelly 1986-88, On loan from the National Museum Of Australia
Pic #4: Peter Brew-Bevan, Paul Kelly 2007, Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Pic #5: Martin Philbey, Paul Kelly 2007, Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra