Friday, March 22, 2013

Intemperate by PJ Kelly reviewed by Jillian Player

I Have Trouble With Rectangles
By Jillian Player

Pj Kelly's gone totally abstract. I try agonizingly to pull sophisticated rhetoric out of her
as she explains her process for her bright, colour-infused works. But all she has to say is,
“It makes me happy.” Then a couple walks into the Polychrome Gallery on Fort Street
where we are sitting on the white leather sofa, and they immediately remark, “These are
happy!” Well, I'm done in. Okay, PJ's work is... happy!

As we move deeper into conversation she does have a lot more to say about her work.
Her latest body of work, showing currently until March 28th at Polychrome, is a collection
of wooden panels of various sizes. The white walls of the gallery burst with colour. Clear,
untainted acrylic colour, covered with very precise dots and three dimensional acrylic
build-ups. Drop after drop, there emerges patterns, conflicts, and an orderly chaos.
Within the body of work titled Intemperate, there are three separate bodies of work.
The Tonic series consists of small- to large-scale square wooden panels painted in
squeegeed acid washes of acrylic with orderly constructed drops of paint. Either in
complimentary or contrasting colour, the panels were a simplifying process for Kelly, as
she wound down from her previous work. Yet the works are highly complex in their
simplicity, I would say the most complex yet of her work to date. Because there is
nothing else to look at except the dots of various sizes running in a uniform pattern
across squeegeed acrylic hues of orange, blues and greens. These dots have to work or
else there is disaster. These panels are meant to keep you awake and draw you in; one
does not stray from them. The panels are on their own or grouped together to create
large-scale works. A purchaser can have an interactive experience with the work as they
have free will in which way they would like to hang the art. Kelly is investigating colour in
it's purest form. She is not tinting or using any white. It's straight from the tube, or I
should say, bottle.

Then there is the Frontier series. These smaller square panels and, dare I say, even some
rectangles, range in size. Some of these works are reminiscent of Tonic, but with a third
dimension to them, and some works are a tumultuous, deep layering of dots upon dots:
so many dots that one can get lost. PJ got lost a few times, too. Then she found that she
could add discarded, dried acrylic paint to the canvases. Then she started to build small
forms. Then she started to dry acrylic paint on glass and sandwich them all together and
cut the layered pieces it into slices. And then she found order in the chaos. The eyes can
rest on these three dimensional nubs that sit precariously on the canvas and give the
paintings a sense of purpose. PJ said that while doing this series she had so much work
that she had nothing to lose, so she started to build. Building things with her hands came
naturally to her. The small sculptures reminded her of making hippie, Fimo jewellery and
tile mosaics.

The third series contains two paintings called Colour Cycles. These two 24x24 inch pieces
challenge the viewer with conflicts of composition and method. Their backgrounds are of
squeegeed black on white with thick swaths of primary colour stroked across the panel,
and a series of dots patterned in simple geometric design. The panels relate in opposition
to each other. These works reflect earlier work and show Kelley’s love for graphic
black-and-white. They also hint at Kelly's early influences of Bill Porteous and Cindy
Shin-Min Wang.

Kelly's work evokes the iconic freshness of Pop Art and Lichtenstein's “dot.”
Reminiscences of watermelons, key lime pie, and candy are brought to mind with the
Tonic series. Kelly said, “The 'dot' became the vehicle for driving around my canvas.”
Experimenting with unadulterated colour became her optimistic investment in painting,
as she wound her way through the anarchy of her studio and came out the other side
with fresh, intelligent, luscious work.

Abstract paintings by PJ Kelly
Polychrome Fine Art
977-A Fort St. Victoria BC
March 14 – 28,2013


  1. Good review. It describes the work well. PJ's work has to be experienced!

  2. Loved the exhibition. So much energy and each piece draws you into PJ's world, which is full of rhythm and brightness!

  3. Great review Jillian. Really like your style of writing. Look forward to seeing more.