John Kelly was born in Bristol, UK in 1965. His family emmigrated to Australia the same year. In 1985 Kelly obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts Painting) from RMIT University, Melbourne, where he also completed his Master of Arts in 1995. As a winner of the 1995 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, he travelled to London to study as an Affiliate Student at the Slade School of Art from 1996 to 1997.


Kelly held his first show at Niagara Galleries, Melbourne in 1988, and his first UK one-man show at the Piccadilly Gallery, London. Kelly is best known for his paintings and large sculptures of Williams Dobell’s cows, made out of papier-mâché and used during WWII to confuse enemy aircrafts about the location of the Australian airbases. His sculptures of these cows have made their way to exhibitions in the Champs Elysees, Paris (Les Champs de la Sculpture, 2000) and Monte Carlo (La Parade des Animaux2002). More recently, however, Kelly’s work has been based on specific motifs, most notably the logo of the Arts Council of Australia.


He currently lives with his family in Cork, Ireland. 

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