Brendan Kelly Born Ryde, Sydney. Lives and works Mullumbimby NSW Australia, b. 1970


Brendan Kelly

Born 1970- Born Ryde.  Now lives and works in Mullumbimby, NSW Australia


Through my art, I aim to create a unique and exciting experience that evokes contemplation of life, whilst sharing my own experiences and eccentricities as an Australian.


Utter Bedlam (2023) is Brendan Kelly’s latest solo exhibition of mixed media paintings, which focuses on Australia’s first purpose-built psychiatric hospital, the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum (later Gladesville Hospital), which opened in 1838 in the Sydney suburb of Gladesville.


Using the Gladesville Hospital as a microcosm for the broader examination of mental health care, the artist attempts to better understand historical and contemporary practices and attitudes, how they were formed, how they have changed, and what may lie ahead.


The works in the exhibition explore the theme using raw, direct, gestural marks alongside fractured, figurative, cartoon-like passages with a mixture of mediums including acrylics, graphite, charcoal and photo collage. The artist uses bright and bold colour to effectively address the light and dark shades of sensitive subject matter with intelligence, empathy, irony and compassion.


Through the exhibition, the artist hopes to increase awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental health issues, and to open new dialogues relevant to the past, present and future of mental health and wellbeing in all forms everywhere.


Language Warning: Some words and terminology used in the Utter Bedlam exhibition such as asylum, lunatic, mental hospital, and hysteria are now considered out of date or inappropriate. They have been used to express and address historical content relating to contemporary mental health care. No offence is intended..




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Brendan Kelly

Born 1970- Born Ryde.  Now lives and works in Mullumbimby, NSW Australia


Through my art, I aim to create a unique and exciting experience that evokes contemplation of life, whilst sharing my own experiences and eccentricities as an Australian.


Growing up in a typical suburban Australian home in the 1970’s, Brendan Kelly's first experience with paint was working with his father on the house. He recalls his dad painting a green figure on the side of a box with paint oozing onto the ground. This moment would stay in the artist's mind for years and after some experimenting as a teenager, Kelly's creativity manifest through a variety of artistic pursuits. Training as a Graphic Reproducer with a large printing company inspired initial cartoon drawing and poster art and after relocating to Mullumbimby in the 1990’s with partner, artist Claire Yerbury, the peace and isolation of living in the raw native bush created a sense of nostalgia and a yearning for more.

After attending drawing classes in Northern NSW Kelly's mind opened to a heightened sense of awareness and led to an exclusive concentration on his art practice. With designs and cartooning published in various Australian magazines and newspapers, the subsequent development of Kelly's distinctive painting style reflects both his character and life experience. The artist images local subject including the vast parcel of land in Northern NSW on which he lives. And, through contemplation of life, his oeuvre includes reflection on Australian history, colonialism, Aboriginality from a white perspective, and iconic heroes and eccentricities as an Australian.

The 2021 ground-breaking series, Wallumatta White Kid, was rich in narrative and reflected Kelly's deep connection with Sydney's Wallumatta/Ryde area where he grew up. Imaging the birth and final resting place of Bennelong, Kelly included portrayals of his lands, the convict worked orchards of the James Squire Brewery, (Sydney's first), which lay on the banks of the Parramatta River now in Sydney's Northern Suburb of Putney. Commenting on the treatment of First Nations Australians and Colonial attitudes, he also nods to Bennelong as an 18th Century curiosity.

Kelly’s long anticipated 2022 body of work, Saint Ned, includes mixed media paintings focusing on the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his place within contemporary Australian society. The artist seeks to analyze Ned Kelly through a broad lens, encompassing a wide range of elements, which have added to the Ned Kelly story, in order to comprehend the modern view of a man who, once thought a common criminal, hunted by police and executed in 1880, became Australia’s most well-known 19th century individual, an Australian hero and icon. The breadth of work in the exhibition reflects Ned Kelly in the contemporary sense. Raw, bold, and direct gestural abstract-marks share the picture plane with fractured, figurative, almost cartoon-like passages that contain a wide mixture of mediums including acrylics, graphite, oil stick, aerosol spray, sheet metal and photo collage. Using an Australian colour palette the artist effectively showcases Ned’s light and dark shades with intelligence, empathy, humour, irony, parody and pride. Using Ned Kelly as a mirror, the exhibition asks us to look at our national identity through our radically changing perceptions of a 19th century bushranger. How and why has our view of Ned Kelly and ourselves altered? What are our current values and perceptions as a nation, and what were they in the past?


Included within the Macquarie University Art Gallery Collection, Kelly has been invited to respond as a contemporary painter from the Ryde area, to the forthcoming 2022 Macquarie University survey exhibition of the Northwood Group of artists, including Lloyd Rees, Roland Wakelin, George Feather Lawrence, John Santry, Douglas Dundas, Wilmotte Williams and Marie Santry. 


Solo Exhibitions:

2022 Saint Ned Brenda Colahan Fine Art, Sydney

2021 Wallumatta White Kid, The Wellington Gallery Sydney NSW

2021 Breastfed Orphans, Traffic Jam Galleries, Sydney NSW

2020  Trouble in The Order, The Wellington Gallery Sydney NSW

2020  Flight to Light, The Wellington Gallery Sydney NSW


Group Exhibitions:

2022 Affordable Art Fair Sydney, Brenda Colahan Fine Art

2021 Spring Exhibition Brenda Colahan Fine Art

2021 Sydney Road Gallery Birthday Show

2021 ‘Birds’ Group Exhibition, Traffic Jam Galleries, Sydney

2019  Forest Art Flesh and Bone Experiment, Mullumbimby, NSW

2019  Forest Art Enter The Bower, Mullumbimby, NSW

2018  Forest Art Forest Comes Alive, Mullumbimby, NSW

2018 Forest Art Mullumbimby, NSW


Represented by:

Brenda Colahan Fine Art, Sydney

The Wellington Gallery, Sydney

The Thom Gallery Byron Bay, NSW

19Karen Galley, QLD


Education and Training:

Graphic Reproduction Apprentice

Nationally published cartoonist The Big Issue

Ron Curran Dynamic Drawing  





The Kelly Spirit- Onpeople and place in the Australia Imaginary  Burton, Jane .  Byron Arts Magazine (BAM) Issue twenty-One 2022 pp 76-80


Artist Spotlight- Interview with Brendan Kelly. The Village Observer Issue 311 March 2022 p35