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Peter Kennedy

The Gallery A Years  1970-2009

single-channel digital video, colour, sound

11minutes 45sec

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2009

2009.158

About the Artwork

The film The Gallery A Years uses archival footage and still images to re-configure two light pieces originally shown by the artist at Sydney’s Gallery A in 1970 and 1971. Gallery A was an important contemporary art space, exhibiting experimental art which played a pivotal role in the development of conceptual art in Australia in the 1970s. It was the subject of a retrospective exhibition, Gallery A Sydney 1964–1983, at Campbelltown Arts Centre and Newcastle Regional Gallery in 2009. In the course of researching the 2009 exhibition a collection of slides and a Super 8 film documenting Kennedy’s exhibitions were unearthed in a cardboard box in the garage of a former Gallery A director. Their discovery inspired Kennedy to create this new work, crafted from original 35mm colour slides, black-and-white photography and Super 8 film documentary material.

Featuring Neon Light Installations (1970), Luminal Variations (1970), Floor Piece (1970) and Luminal Sequences (1971), the film reveals the robust experimentalism of Kennedy’s practice, which progressed from static neon light installations to more complex environments involving not only neon but also theatre lights and a slide projector on timers. The Gallery A Years reveals the different character of these exhibitions and the transition in Kennedy’s practice from what he calls ‘an aesthetic experience’ to one more readily engaged with the ‘intellect’, ‘temporal patterns’ and ‘visual excitement’. Their DVD reconstruction not only offers insights into examples of ground-breaking work of the period, but demonstrates, through the very particular approach Kennedy has taken in its reconstruction, its contemporaneousness with our current visual culture.
Updated and approved August 2016.

Peter Kennedy

– About the artist

Born 1945, Brisbane, Queensland. Lives and works Melbourne.


Peter Kennedy began exhibiting in the mid-1960s and by the end of that decade had begun to forge new territory in Australia through his conceptually aligned art practice and light-based installations. He was one of the first Australian artists to work with light as installation, creating immersive environments through minimalist arrangements of coloured neon tubes. Since this time, his experimental, ground-breaking body of work has encompassed installation, performance, photography, sound, video and drawing. In the late-1970s his practice became more politically engaged and activist in nature, exploring and interrogating actual political events. Later works have encompassed notions of death and mortality from both historical and personal perspectives.
Kennedy has exhibited widely both in Australia and overseas. He was a founding member of Sydney’s avant-garde artist-run gallery, Inhibodress, in the early 1970s and was Director of the University of Sydney Art Workshop (The Tin Sheds) from 1980 to 1985. In 2002 the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne held a retrospective survey of his work, Peter Kennedy: Selected Works 1970–2002; the solo exhibition Peter Kennedy: Light Years 1970–71 was presented at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane in 2011.

Recent group exhibitions include Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2013); Sweet Spot, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2009); Gallery A Sydney: 1964–1983, Campbelltown Arts Centre, NSW, Newcastle Regional Gallery, NSW (2009); Figuring Landscapes, International Centre for Fine Art Research, University of the Arts, London (2008); and The Far Side of the Moon, McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Langwarrin (2007). His works are held in Australian state gallery and university collections and in international collections, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Tate Gallery, London; and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

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