Paul Kenny

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Breathing life into objects overlooked by others, Paul Kenny creates expansive, cosmic images from minute, fragile ephemera. Unceasingly innovative, he is at the forefront of developments in contemporary abstract photography.

Works

Precious: Sea: Stone No 4, 2006 Kefalonia/Mayo

Paul Kenny

Catch A Wave (Cast), 2002

Paul Kenny

Mappa Cheswick, 2008

Paul Kenny

A Day Out At The Beach No 1, 1998

Paul Kenny

Heaven Or Las Vegas – Ross Strand, Mayo, 2008

Paul Kenny

Catch A Wave Downpatrick Head, Autumn 2008

Paul Kenny

Mappa Kefalonia, 2009

Paul Kenny

Cultivated Landscape No 3 – Spring, 2009

Paul Kenny

Sea Metal Moon No 3 – Coca Cola In An Outgoing Tide, 2009

Paul Kenny

Harvest Moon Over Mayo – East Coast Remix, 2006

Paul Kenny

Dulaman – The Down Patrick Head Remix No 3, 2003

Paul Kenny

After The Snow, Silver Leaf No 1, 2011

Paul Kenny

Hydrangea No 1, Arranged, 2011

Paul Kenny

Birch Cut No 2, 2011

Paul Kenny

Foxglove No 3, 2011

Paul Kenny

Forget-Me-Not Summer, 2011

Paul Kenny

Pink Square, 2011

Paul Kenny

The Sound Of Iona, 2010

Paul Kenny

Mapping The Seabed – Patara, Turkey, 2015

Paul Kenny

Blue Mayo Landscape No. 1, 2015

Paul Kenny

Precious Sea Metal Remix 6, 2015

Paul Kenny

Under The Surface Pond Birch Layers 2, 2016

Paul Kenny

Under The Surface Pond Birch Layers 1, 2016

Paul Kenny

Autumn Walk 4, 2015

Paul Kenny

Rust Never Sleeps, 2016

Paul Kenny

Iron Grid, 2013

Paul Kenny

Collateral Damage, 2013

Paul Kenny

Precious Sea Stone Under Sea, 2015

Paul Kenny

Moon Over A Mayo Landscape, 2015

Paul Kenny

Jetsom Map, 2016

Paul Kenny

Mayo Landscape – Catch A Wave Remix 2, 2014

Paul Kenny

Precious Sea Metal Moon Remix No. 1, 2015

Paul Kenny

Scrimshaw 2, 2015

Paul Kenny

Rain Damage Red, 2013

Paul Kenny

Line Drawing, 2015

Paul Kenny

Phycology 2, 2014

Paul Kenny

Precious Sea Stone Remix No. 1, 2014

Paul Kenny

Precious Sea Stone Remix No. 2, 2014

Paul Kenny

Copper Mine With Pool No. 2, 2013

Paul Kenny

Moon Over A Mayo Beach, 2015

Paul Kenny

Early Years

Born in 1951, Paul Kenny grew up on a council estate in Salford. He did well at a school where most students went on to work in the heavy-engineering industries based in Trafford Park. When Kenny received five good O-levels he appeared in the local newspaper. Kenny’s father worked for a crane-manufacturing company and wanted his son to work in a drawing office where he would not have to do manual labour and Kenny quickly took to drawing. Whilst studying fine art in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he began to appreciate the Northumbrian coastline. He had only ever known beaches at Blackpool and Southport and began catching a bus out of the city to spend days walking along the expansive stretches of Cheswick Sands. He was taken by the vast emptiness and endless horizons of the beach.

At art school Kenny came under the influence of American Modernist photographers Minor White and Paul Strand, seeing their work published in Creative Camera magazine. He started making small, detailed still life photographs of beaches, at first in the traditional way with a camera, but then using experimental methods including splashing the images with seawater as they developed to give them a tinted sheen, always using water taken from the location of the photograph. Experimenting further, he realised that different kinds of exposure and erosion changed the appearance of the image.

Photographic Career

Whilst undertaking a residency at Lancaster University, Kenny started experimenting with digital scanners. Sometimes making sculptural arrangements directly on the scanner, he realised he could exploit the intensity of the light source inside the scanner to produce vivid, often luminous images. He started creating plates with ephemera found along the shoreline, adding drops of seawater to trigger the chemical reactions that produce effervescent colours when scanned and enlarged.

Made from both the land and the sea, Kenny’s work confronts issues of fragility and impermanence in the landscape, illustrating, as he has said, how “man’s hand is scratching away at remaining areas of wilderness.” Working without a camera, Kenny creates small plates or slides laden with objects found on his wanderings including leaves, flowers, shells and rocks. Each plate is then scanned to produce abstract large-scale photographs rich with opalescent colours, which take on the form of imagined landscapes.

The concept of his Sea Works series arose whilst he was scouring a beach in Mayo, Ireland. He found a 7UP bottle with a message inside that had been washed up on the shore. The bottle had taken seven years to cross the Atlantic from Fado Island, off Newfoundland. Kenny noticed that the bottle was covered in thousands of scratches that had been left by the tide, rocks and barnacles whilst it was at sea. Inspired by the idea of the landscape leaving its mark on the man-made object, Kenny started cutting up bottles to create images. Scouring the beaches between Holy Island and Berwick upon Tweed in his native Northumberland, he collects objects discarded by the sea, taking them back to his studio to transfigure into esoteric, abstract images.

On close inspection the leaves, flowers, shells and rocks from which Kenny’s images derive are perceivable, but looking from another angle will uncover entire landscapes within the photographs. Alongside the works created from objects found along the shoreline in his Sea Works series, Kenny has also undertaken a land-based project called O Hanami. Named after the Japanese festival that celebrates the few short days when the cherry blossom blooms before being swept away by the wind, the series considers the passing of the seasons and the ephemeral beauty found in objects foraged from the forest floor. Environmentally minded, Kenny is insistent that, although experimental, his work is first and foremost photography and cites the influence of land artists including Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy.

Exhibitions and Awards

Kenny’s work is held in collections including the National Media Museum, Bradford; the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Goldman Sachs; and the Deutsche Bank Collection. Kenny lives in Lowick, Northumberland, with his wife, Margaret.

Paul Kenny: Studio Visit

News and Press

21st Jun 2016

British Journal of Photography: Paul Kenny’s Land and Sea