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Artistic Equations

Chris Kelly Adds New Inspiration to a Familiar Setting

Artist Chris Kelly creates striking paintings based on the power of lines, but in returning to his East Hampton roots he has come full circle. After an education at Cornell and a successful 20 year art career in New York City and Williamsburg, he felt a calling back to where he grew up for a perfect spot to raise a family, renovating a house in the Springs with room for his ideal art studio. He is in hallowed artistic company just down the road from the Pollock-Krasner house and the Judith Leiber Collection. “It’s a nice place to be hunkered down and my commute is great,” he says with a smile. 

Kelly’s precision and attention to mathematical detail can be seen in his series of geometrically shaped designs. “Math is as much a medium as my oil paint,” says Kelly, “I enjoyed studying the old masters and learning about the golden ratio. The Greek temples were thought the most pleasing with their proportions of a rectangle of 1 to 1.618. I often use a golden ratio caliper and sometimes I will extend it or contract it. It’s like putting together a puzzle.”

Utilizing oil paint and pencil lines give the work depth, some paint dense and thick and other thin which lets the light through. “It creates foreground and background which can shift, and I find that visually interesting.” He also notes, “I try to counteract the precision with the subtle vibration of the brush strokes so when you get close, you see the hand of the artist. The lighter center acts like a window or a doorway so you are looking into a space where you want to go or where you just came from.” It is an invitation to a journey instead of a destination.

Kelly also has a command of color, understanding the additive or subtractive color theory of red, green and blue or the one we know from our computer printers, magenta, cyan and yellow. He comments, “I choose complimentary colors or colors in a certain family, and I build as I go. The painting takes on a life of its own.”

With an interest in the metaphysical through yoga and martial arts, Kelly also relates his color choice to the chakra system where the seven energy centers of the body are reflected by different hues. “I like the green to represent the heart chakra or with the throat chakra it is not just an aquamarine blue but includes violets and lavenders associated with the crown chakra.” It is indicative of how art is both an act of communication, speaking to an audience, but also resonating on an emotional and spiritual level.

Usually selling his work through art consultants or interior designers, Kelly decided to reach out to local galleries on the East End upon his return. He found a kindred spirit in Colm Rowan and launched his new exhibit on Memorial Day at the Colm Rowan Fine Art gallery in East Hampton. Kelly comments, “I reached out and he responded right away. He’s very insightful and it’s been great working with him.” 

How has the Hamptons experience evolved for Kelly over time? “Growing up it was about hanging out on the beach all day and going to your restaurant job,” he says. “As an adult I am discovering even more richness out here, and I have more freedom of time. I have connected a lot more with nature.” This organic experience ranges from mushroom hunting with his wife to harvesting oysters to creating a dandelion vodka. Kelly notes, “My artworks are about the connection of our inner selves to something greater beyond ourselves, and they are reminders of the wild beauty that is all around us. We are a part of nature, and the mathematics that exist just behind the scenes are proof of this.”