Every football fan knows what artist Ben Kelly means. In crafting his ‘Painting the Blues’ exhibition, he looked into the eyes of the football fan and reproduced, with brushstrokes, the volatility and intimacy of a love affair. When the object of his affections is Manchester City FC, this affair is probably best described as tempestuous.
Ben, a Senior Lecturer in Illustration at the University’s School of Art & Design, has recently had his work displayed at the City of Manchester Stadium, in and around which he drew his inspiration.
The exhibition was put together as part of a year-long commission, and features a series of 30 paintings which portray the hopes, yearnings, delights and despairs of going to the match.
Interestingly, the commission followed Ben’s success in One Love: The Football Art Prize, an award also won by City-supporting LS Lowry in its former guise as the Football and the Fine Arts Prize in 1956. Ben clinched first prize for his painting, ‘The Final Whistle’, winning £15,000 and beating off the challenge of 800 other artists.
“Football is the perfect subject to paint - where else can emotions change from triumph to despair in the space of 90 minutes. The focus of my project with City was always going to be from the supporters’ perspective as they represent the fabric of the club.”
‘Painting the Blues’, which ran from 11 February to 31 March, uncovered the match day lives of the football club’s true stars, and the club, who granted Ben unprecedented access to get close to the match day action, deserve applause for it.
“I would like to think that this series of paintings will form an archive which generations of City fans can look back on – a whirlwind season of highs and lows in typical City fashion, but a season that was ultimately the starting point of a new and successful era in the history of the club.”
Spoken like a true follower, Ben, as all fans will tell you.
For more information on Ben’s career, see his website: www.benkellyland.co.uk