Kyoto-based, American born artist Daniel Kelly is the man who likes to paint Chinese porcelain. Not the actual porcelain, you understand, he likes to portray pieces of Chinese porcelain. And not as background features stuck somewhere on a shelf or a table in the manner of 18th century portraiture where decorative pieces were distinctly subsidiary. No, in his paintings the porcelain piece is the main event, painted (or in the case of his limited edition prints, printed) on coarse, etoliated handmade paper from exotic places like Nepal and Thailand.
Daniel Kelly Photograph by Paul Harris
His uniquely stylised works are unexpectedly powerful when you experience them at first hand. We caught up with 67 year old Daniel Kelly at the Hanga Ten Gallery in London’s Maddox Street during Asian Art in London. He is an engaging and remarkably open character, the antithesis of the artist in his garret.
Why did he go and settle in Japan? “I love Japanese women.” It is not entirely flippant. He turns to a demure Japanese girl. “Meet my mistress!” He likes Japan, its culture, the peacefulness, the law abiding nature of its people. At the beginning of his career, he was apprenticed to 12th generation print artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki (1902-99) in Kyoto. It is evident that there he honed his skills and absorbed the world of Japanese printmaking..
“I went back to New York and in no time somebody stole my car. I just thought ‘Get me out of here’ and I went back to Japan.” There he has time and space to work – during the day, that is. The night is for partying and loving.
He says he is fascinated by the texture objects exude, rather than the piece itself.
He loves Chinese porcelain almost as much as he loves women. His relations with his art are rather more complex. “Painting is like war. I get in there and battle and fight. It’s either me or the painting. One of us will win!”
If you love his winning images you can pick up a limited edition (the editions are small) print for between £2,000 and £5,000. His works are in an impressive range of collections from The British Museum and The Museum of Modern Art in New York to The Sackler Gallery.