We went along to Neil Horenz Kelly aka NED’s exhibition at Deal Castle. The setting couldn't be further from Neil’s miniature one-room gallery on Sondes Road, where he has a studio and exhibits work from the likes of Noel Fielding and Vic Reeves. In the depths of Henry VIII’s fort, he is free to stretch his wings and show the full spectrum of his work.
Neil has been honing his craft for 20 years, with this show being a celebration of his career so far. His paintings capture the variety of shapes colours and textures that loom above us. The brushwork is a large part of the appeal with the movements building a scene. As a viewer, you can see the work of the artist on the canvas. Follow the process, imagine the choices and free form flourishes that build the image. Be part of the creation, that sometimes includes wielding a blow torch to create an effective bubbling texture.
The lighting in the room highlights textures on the surface of the canvas which gives way to a glistening sea below, or nuanced cloud formations peeking through in the background. The textures work well with the competing knobbly stone and flint texture of the walls surrounding them.
The acoustics in the subterranean space distorted the soundscape- which was composed by musician Steve Young and performed live on the opening night. The experience was ethereal if a little unnerving as we navigated the labyrinth of interconnecting rooms. The evening was bustling with people in complete contrast to when we came back on Wednesday afternoon when it was eerily quiet, more like a museum with hushed whispers and approving nods. The general atmosphere of the castle is pretty foreboding and you get the sense that the walls have seen a lot.
It’s hard to know how much of the show was made for the space or what is random chance. The paintings match the rooms so well, not only in textures but also in colour. This is exemplified most perhaps in the green metal door in one room that echoes the skies of the canvases standing nearby. Seeing the art in the castle made us see both in a new light, the castle became a piece of art itself, with history in every unique stone. We left thinking about the everyday people who built the walls, artists forgotten by history. NED’s work always leaves us questioning how something so simple can say so much. It’s great to finally see some of the larger pieces that often can’t be shown finally on display in such a perfect location to show them.
You can see Neil’s show at Deal Castle until Sunday 13th October. Neil’s Gallery, Don't Walk, Walk is on Sondes Road. If you want to find out more about Neil, you can read one of our first blogs from over two years ago when we both first started our collaboration with the town.