John Kingerlee

Born in Birmingham in 1936, John Kingerlee is a self-taught artist who moved to the Beara Peninsula to live and paint. He uses a collage painting technique, starting a painting by creating one element of it and adding to it over a period of time as he collects several harmonising ideas, images, objects and colours. His finished creations can take years to complete and months to dry out as he applies 50 to 100 layers of paint to each one.

He had his first solo exhibition at the Ewan Phillips Gallery in London (1967) and his works have been shown across England, Ireland and the US. In 2010 a book on the artist was published titled, The Whole Planet is a Garden, The Genius of John Kingerlee, written by Edmund P. Pillsbury, PH. D. with contributing essays.

2020 with a world in pandemic, the momentum of social media amplified straddling the void left by travel and lockdown.  Artists posting anxiously on masse; a blurring stream of artworks fusing into one.

What a surprise to be startled mid scrolling; John Kingerlee and his stunning artwork courtesy of a now mutual Irish friend.

It’s a fair stride from Cairns Far North Queensland Australia to Kingerlee’s home in County Cork Ireland.

I daydream of visiting, even though I sense that I know these Kingerlee paintings. Such complex textured works with multiple layers which challenge the camera lens, will really only be activated when seen in real time.

From the words of an Irish friend and collector there are identifiable common qualities in the Kingerlee/ Poulsen approach to painting.

Firstly, a shared process of working. At the ready in both studios are multiple loose supports on the go at the one time with the floor or bench our preferred easel. Each artwork generates the momentum for the next canvas or paper within hand reach, alterations spark ideas, shift the flow and direction for future paintings.

Secondly and where I feel the strongest creative bond with Kingerlee is the landscape; there is a shared rejection of a traditional interpretation of aerial and linear perspective to create artificial depth.  Besides this and the quintessential textural qualities in our work, the main coincidence lies in a choice to convey a sensation of landscape, to retain both breadth and intimacy. Details are included not for rendering reality but stamping areas for further consideration.

But without doubt the most curious and thought provoking of all Kingerlee’s artworks are his SRIKS.

Admiration for artists Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg generated a fresh line of creative enquiry for Kingerlee, paving the way for an electrifying body of work. Dubbed by himself, the SHRIKS a title derived from the surnames of the trilogy, Schwitters, Rauschenberg, Kingerlee.

The SRIKS embody a lifetime collection of memorabilia; saved letters, old notes, fragments of drawings coming together in these deeply significant works to tell new stories.  Kingerlee captures the light and shade of memories and emotions that have inhabited his life, recording an ever-evolving tableau of each moment in time. These are Kingerlee’s signature works, clearly not conforming to the accepted ideas about aesthetics.

At times there appears to be lumps of debris embedded in the paint. Raw colour scrawled and scraped across an indelicately placed section of collaged imagery. All the mark making actions appear somehow careless yet for all these random techniques the work comes together in a mysteriously anti-appealing way.

All of the media applying techniques; building and structuring, dabbing, painting and gluing are deeply relevant to building a surface record of Kingerlee’s past life and into the new world of SHRIK pictures.

It is difficult to define the art of John Kingerlee; except perhaps to say he is as an artist who has perfected imperfection.

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