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Artist Neah Kelly

Neah Kelly is an interdisciplinary artist based in Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada, whose practice incorporates printmaking, drawing, then recycling these prints into hand-sewn paper sculptures, installation, and bookbinding. Broadly, her work is concerned with the circuitous nature of creativity, and how endless iterations can be found and generated, explored and capitalised on through the use of constraints, rules, and an obsessive tenacity. She has exhibited widely across the U.S. and Canada, participating in group shows at Women Made Gallery (Chicago), Site: Brooklyn (New York), and IPCNY (New York). She’s had two-person shows at Atelier Circulaire (Montreal, QC) and Martha Street Studio (Winnipeg, MB), as well as residencies at KKV Grafik Printmaking Workshop (Malmo, Sweden), Martha Street Studio (Winnipeg, MB), and the Bonnie McComb Kreye residency (Victoria, BC). Recent activities include solo shows at Centre[3] (Hamilton, ON) and SNAP Gallery (Edmonton, AB). She holds a BFA in Studio Art and Print Media from Concordia University (2014) and an MFA in Printmaking from Indiana University (2018).

"What happens when we continually draw material from the same source over and over again? It becomes a cyclical progression that comes to speak about the creative process. Using three imagined shapes as a point of origin, I work within a set of natural and self-imposed constraints to reimagine and reinterpret my imagery. This process gives birth to endless variations that morph and evolve in order to open up new subsets of inquiry. Each set of shapes are repeated and reimagined through a variety of media, from 2D to 3D. I then circle back, creating a new generation of shapes that manifest from these translations. In this way it has become an elaborate and evolving form of imaginative play. These objects are all connected – though disguised through a variety of methods, they all share a visual lineage. It is a game with myself to be constantly pushing against these limits and constraints, always with the objective to surprise myself with a new iteration – one that can exist within such a strict premise. It is a game between myself and the viewer, to see if they are willing and able to piece the process back together, to connect the dots. In short, it becomes a form of play, an activity that transcends the individual and is common to all. In its totality, it is a conceptual game that addresses ideas of creativity, the integral necessity of play, and how play, constraints, and rules, can act as an impetus and idea generator. All these ensuing images, objects, permutations are evidence of this personal form of imaginative play – they are not the story in and of themselves. Together, through their interactions, they form the story, which is one of complexity, nonsense, playfulness, and the chaos and joy that come with creative invention."

Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.

I'm from Vancouver Island in BC, Canada, and I studied studio art and print media at Concordia University in Montreal, then an MFA at Indiana University in Bloomington. I have lots of formal training in the arts now, but a lot of the methods I currently use in my practice

I've fallen onto through my own sense of experimentation and adventure (while trying to solve my way out of technical and conceptual problems), so are really in the category of self taught.

Aside from that, both of my parents are artists, so creativity, problem solving, playing with whatever is at hand, has always been a big part of my life.

What kind of work are you currently making?

I just finished making an epic project that took me about five years to complete. It's a play object and idea generator, that is a large mobile stack of paper cutouts and unique drawings. All tallied, I think it is close to 200 drawings. It's a book, but a unique one.

Now I am onto using this idea generator to create a new series of sculptures. Still very much in the discovery stage of finding a 2D image that I can then manipulate into drawings/prints/paintings and eventually a free standing sculpture.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

My studio right now is in my home. I have two very young daughters (12 months/2.5 yrs) and I do whatever I can get away with on a daily basis, interspersed with their activities and how engrossed they are in it. Then, of course, working in the evenings for a few hours, creeping around my own house trying not to wake them.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I am reading The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee and The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff. First book is for my own personal curiosity, which usually weaves its way into my ideas along the way. The second book is for education and research for my third (next) series of sculptures.

Where can we find more of your work? (ex. website/insta/gallery/upcoming shows)

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