Artist Zooms into class at Surf Coast Secondary College

April 29, 2021 BY

Artist John Kelly (on screen) talks with Surf Coast Secondary College teacher Susan Barlow-Clifton (left) and VCE arts students.

AUSTRALIAN-raised artist and sculptor John Kelly has shared his knowledge with VCE students at Surf Coast Secondary College all the way from Ireland.

Kelly’s sister and Torquay resident Marg McDonald helped arrange the Zoom chat, which took place last week in a class run by the college’s art teacher Susan Barlow-Clifton.

Born in Bristol and raised in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine, Kelly is best known in Australia for his paintings and large sculptures of William Dobell’s cows – papier-mâché creations used during World War II to confuse enemy aircraft about the location of the Australian airbases.

His sculptures of the cows have been exhibited on the Champs-Élysées in Paris as well as at The Hague, Glastonbury, Cork city, and at Melbourne’s Docklands (outside Marvel Stadium) since 2001.

Kelly’s most recent local project was his augmented reality exhibition at the 2018 Lorne Sculpture Biennale. Described by Kelly and fellow artist Seol Park as “Pokemon Go! for the art-loving public”, people used their smartphones to view an image of an iceberg from Kelly’s work, “First berg” (2013), adrift on Louttit Bay.

Mrs McDonald said Kelly originally hoped to give the presentation to students personally as part of a visit for the biennale but was still in recovering from illness and has been unable to fly for the past three years.

However, Ms McDonald recently reconnected with the college, which was still keen to facilitate some kind of online session.

“John is one of the artists that they study in VCE. So I just rang him and asked: ‘John, can you do a Zoom with the college?’; and that’s how it came about.

“He stayed up at midnight and talked to the kids – he had a great chat with them, and they had a lot of questions for him.

“John was in the studio during the Zoom chat, so they got an opportunity to go inside his studio and he gave them some tips on painting and starting out as an artist.

“He was rapt with how it went – it was the first time he’d done that sort of thing to secondary students.”