Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney since circa 1992
For the artist John Kelly, the curious tale of Australian Modernism in 'Dobell's Cows' served as an early inspiration, resulting in several series of paintings and sculptures.
When the Australian artist, Sir William Dobell, was engaged to furnish grass airfields with camouflage cows over the course of The Second World War, the directive was assured to deceive Japanese airmen. Of little bearing on the outcome of the war, the project contained a perfect measure of elements both absurd and serious, which in all their sophistry provided a rich cultural archive from which this cow comes. The heroic age of Australian Modernism in the 1940s left an indelible edge of anarchy and humour with Kelly, the artist.
''In these ongoing painterly narratives the cow acquires a history and takes on its own curious reality. You read these beautifully painted works as humorous forays into the artist's inventiveness and the poignantly quizzical cows as metaphors for aspects of Australian culture and colonial history, or even enigmatic signifiers of art' shifting purposes and the puzzling situations in which it finds itself.'' (Victoria Hammond, Melbourne, July 1999)