Trojan Landscape

Artist Jon Kelly builds an exhibition around a 10ft tall Trojan horse

When Northern Irish artist, Jon Kelly was commissioned to put on his first solo show at Fermanagh's Higher Bridges Gallery he had no clear concept of what he would create. Then, one day, his wife Genevieve happened to say she had seen a painting he would like.

Before she could explain, he interrupted her. 'It's a Trojan Horse.' Scarily, that was indeed the subject of the painting. Seeing this as a sign from the gods, Kelly immediately began work on an exhibition entitled Trojan Landscape, the centrepiece of which is a giant Trojan horse.

Kelly enjoys experimenting with different materials – steel, wood and fibreglass. Above all, he enjoys making things: theatre props, customised furniture, festival floats and the like.

His first conceit for this latest solo show was to create a small driftwood sculpture and use a photo of the piece on invitation cards, thereby tricking visitors into thinking that his Trojan horse would be a larger-than-life, archetypal wooden structure. The pull to create a full-sized work, however, was too great.

There is a definite wow factor when you first see the horse. Mainly, it’s the size that impresses. Standing on a plinth, the sculpture is over 10 feet tall. His fibreglass coat, Shire horse legs and rocking-horse mane and tail give him character and charisma.

The piece is both mythical and futuristic. Made from polystyrene and fibreglass, rather than wood, it is painted in antique gold and green acrylics. It may not house 40 men, but it is still a daring piece of art.

This piece is surrounded by three other sculptures made from the same fibreglass material, which flesh out the story. 'Trojan Intent' is a large piece, shaped like half an egg. Its flat front is embossed like a Roman coin or an ancient Greek vase, with a shiny terracotta and black engraving of a deadly Trojan warrior, shield and sword in hand, ready for the fray.

'The Crossing' is a collection of four wavy shapes that seem to have the consistency of warm pizza dough but, lying flat and side by side, they are intended to remind us of the sea crossings that ancient warriors often made. Well maybe.

'The Felling' describes the way the trees were cut down by scheming, scavenging foot soldiers in order to make the Trojan horse. Supported on spindly wooden legs, this sculpture might just as well be a pre-historic sea urchin. But yes, it could, as intended, be a rocky Mediterranean mountain-side capped with the remains of felled trees.

Quirky and surprising, this exhibition may bring out the child in all of us, but will probably appeal most to young people and is well timed to coincide with the Easter school holidays.

Trojan Landscapes continues at the Higher Bridges Gallery until May 9.