Power, popularity, peaceful protest – how one artist is mixing them all together

“My exhibition, called ‘Power & Pop,’ is portraying the use of a celebrity’s face as a vehicle not just for popularity but also as a symbol of protest, and freedom of speech. All the subjects in my work are celebrities who have been arrested for lobbying for freedom of speech, such as Martin Luther King Jnr, John Lennon and Jane Fonda. I’m interested in the notoriety that celebrities have and their ability to influence a larger audience. Take John Lennon for instance. His anti-Vietnam stance and ‘Imagine Peace’ campaign was a protest on a global scale. Closer to home Midnight Oil are a great example. Why is it that the Government was not able to say sorry to the Aboriginals, but a popular musician can do it without fear? I am intrigued at how these celebrities can cut through the nonsense and make a point.”

Kelvin Taylor is a Sydney-based artist whose artworks are contemplated as a political movement, bold but silent. He carefully selects celebrities who were arrested for the wrong reasons, for speaking out when all others were muted by fear, coercion or complacency. He then immortalises his all-star roster of outliers into photopolymer plate (‘solar plate’) artworks, giving each portrait a more glistening texture accentuated by colors in their most vibrant form.

Kelvin said, “This theme was inspired by the research I was doing on MLK Jnr and the freedom rights campaign he was involved in during the 60’s in America and the work that John Lennon did with the Black Panther Party in the 70’s. From there I came across mugshots of Martin Luther King, who was arrested around 18 times, and that gave rise to the idea of extending it to a celebrity-themed political art movement.”

That is the power behind his art: the story beneath the aesthetic layer. There is a narration of things gone by, a justification of what should be, and what can be done. The images present technique and talent, but they bely the force of a political statement.

Jane Fonda is another heavyweight featured in Kelvin’s artworks. The American actor, model and fitness guru is well-known for her mugshot where she held a defiant fist proudly in the air. Kelvin explains, “She was arrested in the 70’s because she was an agitator against the Vietnam War in America and the officials wanted a famous person as a scapegoat – they arrested her on false pretense.”

Kelvin has been working as a graphic designer for 35 years. It was about six years ago that he was introduced to the art form of print making. Since then he has been studying printmaking at Hazelhurst Gallery at Gymea. It was only recently that he decided to use his artistic talent as a vehicle for his personal expression.

Today, Kelvin works as a designer in corporate Sydney. However, as time ebbs away, the routine corporate lifestyle has lost some of its allure. He explains, “I want to do something more for myself. Now in my mid 50’s I am keen to pursue my passions and art and printmaking is a great outlet for my interests.”

The ‘Power & Pop’ exhibit in Glebe was very well-received. Kelvin mustered so much support and encouraging comments that he is creating a new set of works and exhibiting the exhibition in Bowral for the whole month of July. After that he is setting his mind on his next big project. He said, “For my next project, I might focus on the theme of ‘influential couples’, but not necessarily married couples but more like political or creative partnerships.”

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