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Kelly Sullivan makes Smart Art !


Kemosabe Map II
90cm x 120c – Mixed media on canvas

It gives me the utmost pleasure to introduce Kelly Sullivan. Kelly is a super-talented Byron Bay painter and mixed media artist who is feature artist of this month at Retrospect Gallery. Now don’t be fooled by the pretty colours and pop imagery… Kelly’s works aren’t just a pretty something to hang above the lounge. Her bold images convey cognitive conundrums, pictorial passages and human humor… I had the chance this week to chat with her about her latest artistic endeavors.

Q-Your works are bustling with iconic symbols and text. Not an inch of blank canvas to waste. Tell us a little about the inspiration behind your current works that made their debut (and sold out!) in Byron’s Retrospect Gallery last Friday night? 

 I’m interested in creating paintings of ‘ideas’ that do not necessarily have a geographical landscape basis to them. I see the work as bridging art/design, demented cartography/geography, thought and social comment. My paintings always seem to have an over detailed appearance. I try to always have a comical, political, or social reference attached. I guess I have a whole lot to say, even if it’s random stupid stuff? In describing this current work, l have attempted to “create maps based on a fictional mind f**k – like an emotional atlas of sorts – they purvey a graphic sense of gathered perceptions of place, state of mind and identity.”


 Friday on my Mind Map
80cm x 100cm – Acrylic on canvas

Q- What was your greatest influence in becoming an artist – Was it a natural progression from design or a conscious leap?

I believe that art is something you are born with. Its just a passion, like many other things in life. Whether it be music, sport, theatre or counting money as a bank teller, if it floats your boat, then you just gotta’ do it. I originally trained as a graphic designer in college. I love the rise of graphic art right now….it makes me think how changing values and attitudes influence design and shape our taste and imagination. We seek the new while exploring the past, we endeavor for the personal whilst secretly savoring the popular!

Q- The mixed medium and textured elements in your paintings are so interesting. How much do the discovery of the materials themselves influence your final piece or do you source each element individually?

With the mixed media pieces, its a case of just layering until I think I’ve tweaked the hell out of it. If it looks like crap, I just paint over it and start again. I have a degree in ceramics, so I am also obsessed with the 3 dimensional element of art. That’s why I love gluing layers and raising textures. I have a collection of old cowboy books that my dad left behind when he died. I didn’t have the heart to give them away – so I cut them all up and stuck them over everything?!

Q- There seems a recurrent theme of “maps”… would you divulge a little about this?

I have always found maps intriguing. When you think about it – they are really a thing of the past with all the SAT NAV stuff happening. My maps are an imaginary commentary on  where we live but what is also obvious about these maps, is the advertisement of the self-aggrandizing pride and piss taken by their inhabitants in every little square. They are maps of opposition and displacement to a degree…


 Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?
75cm x 100cm- Acrylic on canvas

Q- You spent your early years in Melbourne then Sydney which obviously ingrained interesting elements of pop culture into your upbringing and subsequently your artwork. Has living in a place such as Byron changed your direction and style?

Living in Byron hasn’t changed my style as such, but my direction – yes, probably. Its a hard place to shine when you make art here. Everyone is writing a film script, playing music or making art. I guess my art direction has been a little distracted or lost since moving from the city. I remember trying to put a painting into a local art comp here once and they said it “was too negative?” It was a map with streets named: Holiday Let Road; Bong Head Court; Dickhead who drives ute at 100mph Street; and Buddha is the new garden gnome Boulevard. I guess you could say that moving to the Bay has made me more of an “art antagonist” if there is such a thing?

Kelly Sullivan

 Road To Nowhere
120cm x 120cm- Acrylic on canvas

Q- When did you make the decision to move to The Bay?

I moved away from the city a decade ago now. I felt that Sydney was no place to bring up a little family, but didn’t really know where else to go? My partner got offered a job at Splendour In The Grass, and the rest is well, history….we are still here, waiting for Splendour to come home to Byron…

Q- What do you have on the cards next for your horizon next for your artistic endeavours?

SO FUNNY that you have mentioned cards! I have been on a swap card collecting rampage on line. I used to collect them as a kid, and some of the retro / vintage images are truly sublime. I was also fascinated as to who drew them – some faceless designer with wonderful visions. Im going to cut those suckers up and re-invent their lives on canvas. I am having a “Petits Travaux (small works) opening 2nd December”  at Retrospect at Xmas – those shows are always fun – and affordable for people to buy mini art for Christmas!

Give some art!


We’ll  look forward to it ,

Thanks for chatting with CG!


Claire lives in the Bay and gets up to all sorts of artistic shenanigans. After completing a Bachelor of Fine Art, Claire Snel loves to "get messy" in her home studio, and is one half of The Spooning Society - a local design/arts duo. Not one to commit to a single creative outlet, Claire also contributes to Common Ground... So we consider ourselves very lucky to have her.


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