Kelly Beeman’s paintings, although featuring characters with the same almond shaped-eyes and straight noses, often with little to no background scenery, somehow encapsulate a variety of characters and stories in each image. Playing with everyday mundanities, Kelly explores how the objects we interact with carry associative meaning, becoming like “vessels that hold unique experiences and memories”.
Because of this, the overwhelming feeling when looking at the New York and Los Angeles-based artist’s work – she travels between the two every few months: “Having a change of scenery, weather, people, culture, etc is stimulating” – is familiarity, yet peculiarity. “I love creating images that feel familiar and strange at the same time – a person, or a place, or a feeling, a situation… I’m happy when the subjects seem tender and inviting, and even sensual, but at the same time formulaic and stylised. I enjoy exploring those visual contradictions.”
Having been fans of Kelly’s work for several years now, we were excited to see a recent change in her approach involving the scale of her works. The paintings made for her current exhibition in LA titled Dress Rehearsal are all large format, at 8×10 feet each. Although an interesting juxtaposition to her previous works which were much smaller watercolours on paper, she sees this progression as a natural continuation of her practice.
“I often think of my watercolours as little windows, a tiny view inside of some distant place,” she remarks, “so the large format oil paintings are sort of the same – a view inside, but a magnified and expanded view, imposing and overwhelming in scale.”
These 18 oil paintings were made between July 2017 and September 2018 and allowed Kelly to expand on previous themes while simplifying the execution of her ideas. The expansion of the canvas means the painter can “give clues rather than explicit information” and, in tune, build scenes in a more subtle manner. “I reached a point in my work where I was adding more to the subject matter – more pattern, more figures, more details, more extravagant outfits. These new paintings are focused and still, which, combined with their scale, makes them more confrontational.”
Despite these changes to her practice, two factors remain the same throughout Kelly’s work: her adept use of colour and the predominance figures in her compositions. Ultimately, Kelly is a painter who produces work with fascinating precision in terms of her aesthetic choices. It’s perhaps a direct result of the artist’s long-standing relationship and love of the medium: “Painting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” she tells us, “early on it was the most natural medium for me because it was the most accessible, but now it just feels like a part of who I am.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.