Local artist Chris Kelly’s triumphant return to the East End will culminate with his first solo show at Colm Rowan Fine Art Gallery. Debuting over Memorial Day weekend, Kelly’s mesmerizing geometric abstracts will be on view at the East Hampton-based gallery through Sunday, June 20. A meet and greet with the artist will take place on Saturday, May 29 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
We caught up with Kelly about the exhibition, his process, why he returned to the East End, and much more.
Your exhibition at Colm Rowan Fine Art Gallery is your first solo show post-COVID lockdown. Tell us about the exhibition and what it means to be able to showcase your work in person again.
CK: It feels amazing. I am very lucky to be able to do what I do, and the fact that I am now going to show what I’ve been working on over the past year and half, in public, is a true privilege. The COVID era has been rough in so many ways, for so many people, and my hope is that I can bring something beautiful into the world in the midst of all that has been happening. It’s a large part of my worldview to stay positive, and I want my artwork to reflect that.
Could you speak to the inspiration of your geometric abstracts and your other works?
CK: Conceptually, I’ve been working on these paintings for over a decade, and they are a culmination of my love of learning new things and gaining knowledge about the world in general. I started seeing patterns in how various things were connected, and this led me to the discovery of the hidden geometry of nature – it’s everywhere, and it has an enormous impact on our lives. We just don’t notice it on a day-to-day basis. This geometry then inspired the shapes and colors that I use, which now have evolved into the various formats that I work in – the large oil paintings, the smaller works on paper, and the sculptures.
What does your process look like and what are you focused on at the moment?
CK: Lately, my process has been to divide my time between painting and sculpting. I recently built a new house in Springs and I have a separate studio with the painting area on the main floor and the sculpture studio below. It has worked out great – if I need to take a break from painting then I can just go downstairs and work on some sculpture. I find it helps to keep moving, and doing a new sculpture can inspire ideas for new paintings and vice versa.
After the Colm Rowan Fine Art Gallery show, where can we see your work?
CK: It’s turning out to be a very busy summer for me. After my opening at Colm Rowan Fine Art this Memorial Day weekend, Colm Rowan will be scheduling private viewings at my studio in Barnes Landing for the rest of the season (after the show comes down on June 20th). I also have another show opening at a new gallery in Litchfield, CT. It’s called amArtHouse and their grand opening is July 4th weekend, so I have a bunch of artwork to ship up there at the end of June. In addition to that, my work is going to be shown at the two major art fairs happening in the Hamptons this summer – Market Art & Design in Bridgehampton (August 12 through 15) and then the Hamptons Fine Art Fair in Southampton on Labor Day Weekend (September 2 through 6). I’ve also started working on some larger scale sculptures meant for the outdoors – I’m doing them in stainless steel (I get to use my welding skills) and they will be ready for showing at some point over the summer.
Your pieces have been featured in solo and group exhibitions, can be found in corporate spaces and private collections, have been commissioned for the likes of the Dream Hotel in Manhattan and the Grey Matters design group in Singapore – and you’ve also worked on projects with interior design firms ranging from onsite murals in Harbor Island, Bahamas, to large scale installations in Buenos Aires, Argentina. How has your work evolved over the years?
CK: I’ve had a wide range of experiences over the course of my art career, ranging from completely original artwork to more collaborative projects – all of them have added to my development as an artist. But what I’m currently doing – these geometric abstracts – is quite different from a lot of what I’ve done in the past. So really, I like to think of these new paintings and sculptures as though I’m starting out fresh, even though they are the culmination of years and years of practice and study.
You were raised in East Hampton and recently returned to the East End. What made you want to return to the area?
CK: The main reason I wanted to move back to East Hampton was to start a family (my wife and I recently had a baby), but life here has become even better than I had expected. I’ve been able to experience the natural beauty of the area in ways that speak to me more as an adult, such as joining the oyster farming program, making homemade Nocino from black walnuts in my neighborhood, and even foraging for wild mushrooms – I never expected I’d be able to find chanterelle mushrooms out in the woods and then take them home to make a delicious risotto, but I’ve done it. It’s amazing, and I never knew how much I would appreciate those experiences.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
CK: Another great aspect about moving out here has been connecting with the local community of artists. We may not see it every day, but there’s a lot of beautiful artwork being created in the Hamptons, and my life as an artist out here has been positively affected by other local artists and artisans like Steven Corsano (an artist), Chris and Lindsay (from S&S Corner Shop in Springs) and Justin Allen (from Shepard Co. Design, who makes beautiful custom furniture). They have all helped to make this current show possible, for which I am very grateful.
Colm Rowan Fine Art Gallery is located at 55 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, visit www.colmrowan.com.