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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Paul Kelly

2013
Warwick Thornton

single channel moving image, colour, sound, 8 minutes 54 seconds

Paul Kelly AO (b. 1955) is one of Australia's greatest singer/songwriters. Since making his performance debut in 1974, he has released 27 studio albums and won many accolades, including seventeen ARIA awards. Kelly sings with a marked Australian accent and many of his songs refer to specific Australian people, places and experiences. Though he has written most of his long and poetic songlist alone, over the course of his career he has also collaborated brilliantly, particularly with Indigenous performers such as Kev Carmody, Christine Anu and Yothu Yindi.

Warwick Thornton is a Kaytetye man, writer, director and cinematographer. In 2013 he was commissioned to create a portrait of Kelly for the musician's biographical exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Conceiving this single-channel digital video, Thornton wrote: 'I want to get Paul to hold up a Marshall amp – its weight bearing down on him – as he gently spins in a clockwise direction on a revolving platform. Paul will be dressed in his favourite suit and we will rig an amp to rest gently on his shoulders in a moodily lit studio. The idea is that the amp represents a heavy burden, music is a heavy burden, but Paul's strength as a singer/songwriter is shown through him being a strong pillar – able to bear the weight of this heavy responsibility.'

Commissioned with funds provided by Ian Darling 2013
© Warwick Thornton

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Warwick Thornton (age 43 in 2013)

Paul Kelly AO (age 58 in 2013)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Supported by

Ian Darling AO (2 portraits supported)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The Rays, 1970 
Raindance Corporation, Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg, Paul Ryan
The Rays, 1970 
Raindance Corporation, Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg, Paul Ryan
The Rays, 1970 
Raindance Corporation, Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg, Paul Ryan
The Rays, 1970 
Raindance Corporation, Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg, Paul Ryan

Post digital

Magazine article by Tegan Mcauley, 2015

Tegan McAuley looks at the evolution of video portraiture.

Paul Kelly 30.11.1980 by Liz Reed
Paul Kelly 30.11.1980 by Liz Reed
Paul Kelly 30.11.1980 by Liz Reed
Paul Kelly 30.11.1980 by Liz Reed

Pop poet

Magazine article by Dr Anne Sanders, 2013

Dr Anne Sanders previews the works in the new focus exhibition Paul Kelly and The Portraits.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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