Madeleine Kelly / Germany/Australia b.1977 / Choreography of war reportage 2002 / Oil on canvas / The James C. Sourris AM Collection / Gift of James C. Sourris through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2010 / Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Madeleine Kelly

Madeleine Kelly
Choreography of war reportage 2002

Not Currently on Display

Observations of nature and natural forms are the basis of her imagery, but by combining these elements in unexpected ways Madeleine Kelly creates works that are entrancing and perplexing. The intersection of humanity and nature lies at the heart of her practice, but while her paintings often deal with topical issues, such as global warming, her work is far from obvious and never didactic.

Choreography of war reportage 2002, for instance, was created out of her concern with humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels and the inevitable and devastating consequences this will have for Earth. Kelly says that within these works she has: ‘investigated the archaeological metaphor and its potential to create new meaning — in particular, the metaphor’s capacity to represent our relationship with the environment, both natural and artificial, as a process of accumulation of analysis, clinical mapping and construction; an archaeology of being.’1

Within her subjective painterly universe, animals are sometimes employed as allegorical symbols, perhaps alluding to humanity’s infinite appetite for war, greed, and destruction. In effect, these paintings are both quietly contemplative and haunting, evoking a sense of foreboding that is impossible to shake.


1. Kelly, email correspondence with the author Bree Richards, 15 August 2011.

Madeleine Kelly is well known for her figurative paintings within which she assembles disparate imagery gleaned from the fields of archaeology, the sciences and other explorations of the natural world more generally. Delivered with strokes of magic realism, these strange pictorial accumulations evoke a sense of wonder, and also urgency in their attempt to address certain existential considerations that have been prompted by an awareness of ecological changes.

Kelly’s paintings present an inscrutable yet universal iconography, drawing on a complex array of intersecting references, from contemporary politics, to classical mythology and the artist’s own concern with environmental degradation. Yet Kelly’s approach is also intuitive and does not follow predetermined composition.