John Kindness


Location: London

John Kindness (born Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1951) is an Irish artist working in a range of media including sculpture and painting. His work often contrasts material, image and reference in an unusual and humorous way. He attended the Belfast College of Art and now lives and works in London.
In 2014, he received an Individual Support Award from the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation.[1]
Typical of Kindness's work is the Treasures of New York series he produced when he spent time in New York in the early 1990s. Here, scenes inspired by contemporary life but modelled in style on Athenian ceramics are painted on panels from New York yellow cabs, equating the significance and stature of contemporary life with that of classical times. He is also known for his use of tiles in sculpture, often contrasting the domestic and static association of tiling with a dynamic and epic subject.
Political Satire
After leaving art school John was involved with a group of cartoonists producing the Belfast Peoples Comic {mid 70’s}, a series of satirical comic strips about Northern Ireland’s contemporary political situation. Comics continued to inform his practice as it moved more towards exhibition and installation work. A Monkey Town Besieged by Dogs, was John’s first exhibition outside of Northern Ireland, originating in Dublin (Grapevine) and travelling to Glasgow {third eye}. In 1987 John made Night Canvas(s), a large mural-like painting, in response to the exhibition invitation for 'Directions Out' at Dublin's Douglas Hyde gallery.
Northen Ireland/ Belfast
John began to work on a broader view of Belfast and Northern Ireland. These works evolved from a renewed interest in ancient arts and in more permanent forms. Belfast frescoes, 1995, was a series of lime fresco panels that depicted a Belfast childhood as it moved from the domestic to the wider world. In 1999 John won a commission with a proposal to make a ten metre long Atlantic salmon carrying the history of the city on its ceramic cladding. The work Bigfish was installed as part of the regeneration of the Lagan riverside in central Belfast.
During his residency, on PS1’s International Studio Program, John made a series of bogus antiquities looking at possible remnants of contemporary New York as if it were an ancient civilisation. Also in New York John was invited to make an installation in the project space of the Drawing Centre where he created a continuous frieze of scenes from the life of Herakles. Although based on the ancient myth, Herakles was depicted as a Belfast ‘hard man’ or tough guy. More recently John has focused on Homer’s Odyssey, using contemporary objects and materials to augment the story. This is still ongoing, with work in progress exhibited in Ireland as part of Galway arts festival 2014.


Key exhibitions
85-88 Division, Crossroads, Turns of Mind; Some New Irish Art, curated by Lucy Lippard, touring USA, Canada and Finland
85-86 A Monkey Town Besieged by Dogs, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow
91-92 Treasures of New York, Dublin, Belfast, New York
97 ICA Philadelphia, solo show
2006 Switch Room, Belfast, 20 year retrospective
Work in public collections or on display
Boston Museum of Fine Art, U.S.A.
British Council, U.K.
British Museum, London
Imperial War Museum, London
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
Kohler Foundation, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Ulster Museum, Belfast
Victoria & Albert Museum, London