The image of Ned Kelly and all it represents continues to inspire artists around the world. One such artist is Martin Claydon, an award winning Sydney based artist who uses artwork to explore power structures and belief systems. Born in England, Claydon moved to Australia in 2002 with a degree in fine arts. In his paintings and collages Claydon lampoons and investigates many colonial figures and re-examines Australian history through a filter akin to a funhouse mirror: distorted and unnatural but with the essence intact.
Claydon’s striking image of Ned Kelly’s death mask and the associated skull is an eerie examination of the legend and legacy of Kelly. The ghostly visages looming above a tortured landscape. Claydon describes his work here thus:
Ned Kelly’s death mask and a skull were displayed at the Old Melbourne Gaol in the 1970s. The skull belonging to Kelly, the infamous Australian bushranger, was stolen in 1978. The man who’s story became captivating legend for many Australians created continued intrigue when the mystery of what happened to his skull went unsolved. Ned Kelly’s story embodies the Australian underdog mentality, standing up for fairness, the romanticised despair and impending doom of life on the continent.
A rocky desert landscape sits below the floatings shapes. This is not Kelly country, this is an invented landscape, a Nolanesque interior unforgiving, hopeless, and harsh. Perhaps a closer representation of Kelly’s experiences as an Irishman under choking British rule.
DNA testing later proved that the skull on display at the Old Melbourne Gaol was not Kelly’s.
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Go to Martin’s website here.
Martin Claydon is also on Instagram @martinclaydonpainter