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Spotlight on the Collection: Bob Kelly

In this series, we explore some of the interesting items from Bayside City Council’s Art and Heritage Collection.

We are looking at the 2016 painting Chinaman's Creek by Indigenous artist Bob Kelly.

Detail of a painting of an Australian landscape with a central winding creek, surrounding lush vegetation of green trees and grasses.

Bob Kelly, Chinaman's Creek (detail) 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 75 cm. Bayside City Council Art and Heritage Collection. Purchased 2017. © Robert Kelly 

About Bob Kelly 

Bob (Robert) Kelly is an Indigenous artist of Wathaurong heritage based in Rye, Victoria. He works across a range of media including wood, limestone and bone carving, painting, drawing and pyrography. He also makes didgeridoos and boomerangs from local gum and tea tree. Despite being interested in painting and drawing from a very young age, he gave it up as a teenager and it wasn't until he was in his 40s that Kelly rekindled his art practice.

Kelly is a founding director of Baluk Arts, an Indigenous-run not-for-profit art centre on the Mornington Peninsula. He has been exhibiting regularly for the past 10 years including at the Koorie Heritage Trust, Melbourne; Linden Arts, Melbourne; Frankston Arts Centre, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington. In 2016 he contributed drawings to the children's picture book On the Edge of Creation, which tells the Aboriginal creation story of Port Phillip Bay and in the same year he was named artist of the year at the Frankston-Mornington Peninsula NAIDOC Awards.

To learn more, visit Baluk Arts website.

Chinaman's Creek

Painting of an Australian landscape with a winding creek through the centre, a lush green mountain in the background, and gums and spinifex grasses scattered through the foreground. A large gum tree frames the right side of the painting.

Bob Kelly, Chinaman's Creek 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 100 x 75 cm. Bayside City Council Art and Heritage Collection. Purchased 2017. © Robert Kelly.

Bob Kelly paints landscapes of culturally significant sites along the Mornington Peninsula and depicts these locations as he imagines they originally were before colonisation. Using traditional Western painting techniques, Kelly records the underlying spirit of the Peninsula from a Wathaurong perspective.

Chinaman’s Creek in Capel Sound (Rosebud West) was an important watercourse that originally ran from Wonga (Arthur’s Seat) down through Tootgarook Swamp into Port Phillip Bay. It was a great fresh water and food source and home for many Boonwurrung people. Since settlement over 170 years ago, the creek has been drained, blocked, reconstructed and damaged. Kelly depicts a lush green landscape in which the clean creek water winds through the surrounding vegetation of spinifex grasses and gum trees, the background hills are abundant with trees, untouched from man's intervention. 

Using painstaking detail, Kelly records each blade of grass and ripple on the surface of Chinaman’s Creek. His attention to detail serves to powerfully reimagine this important cultural site, returning it to its former pristine state, and reinvigorating its role as a key place of sustenance for the Indigenous populations of the Peninsula.

Chinaman's Creek was a finalist in the Bayside Acquisitive Art Prize and was acquired by Bayside City Council in 2017.

Interested in learning more about the Art and Heritage Collection?

Bayside City Council is the custodian of the Bayside Art and Heritage Collection, a collection of around 2,000 items that was principally formed when the former Sandringham and Brighton City Councils merged in 1994. Artworks and heritage objects are displayed at our Corporate Centre in Sandringham, Bayside Gallery in Brighton and other Council owned buildings.

Learn more

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