AILEEN KELLY'S WORKS are processual. Everything is in a state of becoming – or maybe unbecoming. Her found objects – appropriated and adapted, displaced and dismantled, stratified and suspended. One mattress with its covering peeled off, coated in a shabby, careworn felt; another exploded with its springs on show, a jack-in-the-box, a ribcage, somehow exposed, raw and vulnerable, yet strong and offering support – stripped down to discover what is inside: the essence and the essential.
Her Sculpture Drawings are like blueprints: tentative structures made out of fabric-wrapped posts in fragile, midway states. Neither one thing nor the other, they quiver and quaver, resting like a lean-to, reaching like a sapling. Frames or portals, leading from the past to the future, circumventing the present. They carry a sense of the familiar, yet are uncannily dissociated. Memorials to something lost, but to what? Feminine somehow, both in their fabrication and tentative presence, their silence and unimposing stance. They offer mere suggestions, nothing is concrete, but every gesture is made with intent.
Kelly’s Stitch Drawings speak in the same tone. Reincarnating images of trauma, stitched on to cloth or paper, showing tangled threads, fractured lines and obliterated identities. Some are projected up large on to white walls, shadowing down upon us, heavy yet weightless. Incomplete outlines, their souls might seem to drain away into the void. Worked up from specific media images, they could, nonetheless, be any child, any parent, any loved one. ‘Do I have the right?’ Kelly muses, visibly concerned at her trespassing into someone else’s private realm, private grief. But, as a mother, she grieves for the loss of others, memorialising one, memorialising many.
Saving every remnant, Kelly has recently turned to collage and printmaking, recycling scraps and cut offs, once again breathing new life into other people’s waste materials. For her, nothing is without worth. Everything offers a haunting reminder of the transience of existence, a subtle metaphor for the fragility of structures upon which we rely. Everything will have its turn once again in the greater process known as life.
Anna Mc Nay