SIMON KENNEDY
SURREALISM
8 APRIL – 2 MAY 2015

SIMON KENNEDY
From Dora Maar photograph ‘Portrait d’Ubu’ 1936 2015
charcoal, pastel and ink on paper
153 × 105 cm

SIMON KENNEDY
From Henri Martinie photograph of René Crevel 1925 2015
charcoal, pastel and ink on paper
76 × 56 cm

SIMON KENNEDY
From photograph of E L Kirchner circa 1910s 2015
charcoal, pastel and ink on paper
76 × 56 cm


Gallery 9 is pleased to present a new exciting series of large scale charcoal and pastel drawings by Simon Kennedy.

Titled surrealism, this new body of works reflects Simon Kennedy’s shift in focus to Surrealist photography from the 1920s and 30s, particularly his perception of its dark, frenzied aesthetic and the ways it can be translated into the medium of drawing. As with Kennedy’s previous bodies of work, the imagery is sourced from historical photography specific to a period in time and his reproduction of the imagery is his attempt to gain further insight and understanding to what the photographer or artist set out to capture. Kennedy alikens his process to how art historians and writers examine and deconstruct an image using a specific language, whereas Kennedy employs lines and tonal layers. For Kennedy, his drawings are an attempt to connect viewers with a rendition or translation, decoded from the original photograph.

Rather than being merely an artistic endeavour, of reproducing an image from the past, my practice is seeking to personally understand what lies behind the image that was created in a time before I was born. In the process of drawing from a photograph, based on a historical image, the surface layers are peeled away forming a structure that describes presence and absence as well as the relationship between history and death.
– Simon Kennedy, April 2015

From his own assessment of what compels him to draw from historical photographs, Kennedy admits that technically, his use of charcoal preferences the black and white imagery but he believes there is a more substantial rationale. He initially views the photographs as inaccessible, alien encounters with history but slowly as the source material is transcribed with charcoal onto paper, as layers build and are then stripped away to form a skin-like surface, the subjects reemerge as Kennedy’s own. The completed works are the result of his meticulous investigation into the imagery. As his understanding of their subjects and compositions are assimilated in the process they become the impetus for the completion of the work. He is always conscious that the original image is historical and not of his making but believes his works come to exist as separate entities from the originals. Kennedy views his process as more than admiration and celebration of the original photograph but a unique incorporation of their imagery in a new time and place.

Simon Kennedy is a BFA graduate from the Otago Polytechnic School of Art in Dunedin. Before relocating to Sydney, he staged several solo exhibitions with Marshall Seifert Gallery in Dunedin and has won the Waiheke Art Prize in 2005. His work has featured in numerous group exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand and has been collected by the New Zealand Parliament Collection, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Artbank.