Award-winning contemporary artist Eric Kelly III creates fine art pieces, which seamlessly merge fugitive and abstract aesthetics and techniques with modern flavor. His intensely and sometimes detailed images achieve astonishing method of light and bold lines, as practiced by the great masters while incorporating emotional scenes and color, which challenge cultural norms. Exhausted by a society in which black men often feel vulnerable, threatened, or powerless, Kelly recasts portraits as powerful creatures, freed from the oppressive gaze and placed within emotional colors where they can revel in their own beauty and potential. Blending abstraction, expressive with figuration, the natural world with the urban idea through bold lines and colors that connects portraits with a transformative reality, Kelly’s breathtakingly beautiful artworks achieve something truly unique, both in terms of aesthetics and concept.
Like many artists, I discuss personal experiences through color that I feel when I encounter new emotions, faces and themes. At the same time, I strive to escape the self, an urge that partially stems from crossing borders of realism and abstract painting. Living through cultural starvation in my childhood has made me restless and hungry for honest creativity with an almost childlike curiosity. In that sense, everything I paint is strictly personal. Sex, hate, love, anger, abuse, violence, trauma… I may present an unusual perspective on these topics stemming from the colors I use, but only as to give a unique point of view. The work needs to keep changing, relive itself, and challenge its own conformity.
There is a point in every artist’s career when one is tempted to choose a tested and proven path. I am constantly trying to resist this temptation by containing the “paths” in series where I can explore a motif or a theme without succumbing to the comforts of one visual style. The artists that I look up to for inspiration have one thing in common – constant renewal. Nontraditional elements of color are very central to my body of work. It is not so much a need to keep the style “nontraditional”, but rather the way I speak. I grew up in a capitalist country where I was told that I would be a starving artist. Yet the thought of the possibility of being a starving artist, I have made art for decades, not for the money but for the joy of it.
I paint about emotional responsive to everyday landscapes as it relates to the human structure called the face and praised emotions while accepting nature and expressing creativity and the human spirit with it. At the same time, my summers were spent in New York and Durham with my aunt and grandmother who had a very distinctive power on my experiences as it relate to people. These two realities are inseparable in my mind. The painting technique I mostly use resembles the Ophism and abstract method of colors.
I paint between layers of ideas and colors as the great masters before me did. I start with pencils, pastels and then an abstract textured background. After that, I paint a layer with acrylics and finish with a couple of thicker layers using a combination of bold lines and colors. Asked when he decided to focus on portraits that conveys social and political messages, Kelly responded, “It gradually evolved as I was making art that was meaningful to me.
Once I realized the tremendous power that images can have to make people comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or sad, settled or unsettled, I knew I had a voice. I decided to use my voice to encourage people to see, think and feel – something not always valued in our culture. Awareness replaces ignorance and opens up the possibility of change. If you cannot ignore it, then you may feel compelled to change it. I do not recall any one thing prompting that decision. Just a strong need to communicate and share ideas and emotions.
In addition, where does his seemingly endless stream of ideas of portraits come from? “I believe that most of my ideas come through me, not from me. Sometimes, ideas simply pop into my head seemingly from nowhere. Other times, some political or social situation will appear in my conversations, in the news, in a movie or in many other ways — repeatedly, beckoning me to paint them”.
Eric is a searcher and lover of work well done, he ends one phase without apprehension to enter another, and in all those phases, we find him once more. The work of this north American artist is made up of different stages, all them characterized by an intense desire for an ideal composition, by means of exquisite technique.
An indisputable value of his art is its unusual character; we cannot typecast it in any artistic school nor in any fashion. However, we unavoidably discover the artist is an expressive and abstract visionary. In his paintings, he looks at people, emotions, color, life and lines without causing a wince, as his work, although dramatic, possesses an original combination of power and elegance. Kelly is a natural instigator, using color to engage, to confuse, to motivate, Kelly is an artist of our time who shows us his personal, up-to-date dialog without forgetting the lessons of old masters.
The way that I appreciate Kelly’s abstract expression paintings makes me pause, observe and reflect how his art is evolving in our present time. He is an artist who was born in Washington DC. In 1982, he opened a new museum, started to study his style, his art making and discovered his voice as an abstract expressive artist. In 1998, the artist began a new stage as a curator at the Eric Kelly III Museum and today he resides in Durham, a modern city in North Carolina.
His extensive collection of paintings filled with class and elegance reference his masterful technique and artistic method, making the artist evolve personally and professionally. Each of us can appreciate the work in a close way, where we can feel and connect on a personal level, thus reaching a universal message that is life and color.
Life, in Kelly’s paintings, flow partially out of color, emotion and something that we hardly feel today, the present moment. Paintings that create a climate of softness, with the artist “Being the generator of his own history”.
His imaginative paintings reflect a relationship with his memories that emanate a feeling of how we would like to merge our present, so common and ordinary yet so powerfully human.
The precision of his technique that makes him an inventor of his own style also makes him an extraordinary artist. The perception of his unique paintings leave the viewer dazzled by such detail of the process. We can all appreciate such impeccable works of art that grow more and more in depth if we do not stop obstructing our gaze upon them.
Thus, the perception of his unique paintings point to a new horizon of tomorrow, with Kelly announcing his own moments as the groundbreaking artist of today!