Art and music bring light to a life lived in darkness

Monday, 21 October 2019

Being completely blind has never stopped musician and artist Renee Kelly from using creative outlets to express herself.

Born 15 weeks premature, Renee sees total darkness.

Relying on her other senses, she developed a passion for music and the arts at a young age.

“My dad taught me to play the drums when I was around 3 years old,” Renee said. “He was never a professional drummer, we’d just have jam sessions with my two older brothers.”

These jam sessions have led to a lifelong passion for Renee, who’s biggest dream is to be in a band.

“When I play, I feel invincible, like I can do anything. It takes away my worries, you can just forget about everything when you’re playing.”

Renee took up painting two years ago after some encouragement.

“I had always wanted to give painting a go, however I was worried what people may think as I can’t see colours,” Renee said.

Close up of a young women's face, half in darkness

“A wonderful support worker I had at the time encouraged me and helped me to buy my first paint brush and supplies. I still have that paint brush, actually,” Renee laughs.

The first painting she created, ‘Seasons’ (above), is being featured in EPIC’s upcoming fifth annual art exhibition, Shifting Perspectives.

The artwork is inspired by one of her favourite singers, Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden and Audioslave.

“I always listen to music when I paint, it helps to set the mood. I listened to a lot of Chris’ music whilst creating Seasons, which is also the name of one of his songs.”

Apart from music, Renee finds inspiration from things she’s going through at that time.

“I can’t see colours, so I make things up as I go along. If I’m feeling happy, I might use some yellow, or use a darker colour if I’m feeling that way,” Renee explained.

Renee believes art and music bring people together.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, I think it’s (art and music) a language that everyone can understand. It can help people realise that anything’s possible and can improve your confidence and wellbeing.”

Having her artwork shown publicly is something that brings Renee much joy and satisfaction. She also enjoys attending exhibitions to listen to other attendee’s perspectives.

“I find it so interesting to hear people’s different views of artwork. It’s fascinating hearing how someone might see a tree in a painting, but then the next person sees it as something else.  I love hearing about different colours and how they can mix together,” Renee said.

Renee is currently working for Queensland Police transcribing interviews, a job she has wanted to do since she was a young girl.

“I want people to shift their perspectives to see that anything’s possible. Just keep going and never give up.”

Renee is the feature of a short documentary available to watch on ABC iView called Drummer Girl. This film has now been screened at several film festivals worldwide.

To learn more about Renee, visit her Facebook page, Renee Kelly: Drummer.

Shifting Perspectives is open to the public from Wednesday 30 October- Sunday 10 November at Graydon Gallery in New Farm, Brisbane. Visit the gallery in person to view artworks from more than 60 talented artists with disability.

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