An inside look into the life of an outsider

By Marie Vogts

Kelly John Gough. José João. Charlie Chaplin. Lilli Slaptsilli. Jonathan Cavanagh. Rahla Xenopolous. Hedy Lamarr. What do all of these people have in common … they are all an outsider of some sort…

Are you an outsider – and if so, what do you think makes you this? Perhaps you only feel like an outsider in certain places, around certain people, or relating only to certain aspects of yourself or your life.

For artist, Kelly John Gough, he has spent his life as an outsider, from how his mind tried to understand math problems at school to being a creative in an art world driven by criteria and categories he has never felt 100% aligned with. I think this only accentuates what makes Kelly John Gough and his current exhibition ‘Outsiders’ so unique and intriguing.

Kelly John Gough

In November 2014 Youngblood’s paths crossed for the first time with artist, Kelly John Gough. He quickly became part of the Youngblood family and collaborations originated organically.

Kelly wanted to be an artist since he could hold a crayon. After studying graphic design and working in the publishing and production industry for 12 years, Kelly embraced his first love full-time in 2001.

Inspired by the human form, Kelly paints (mainly in oil) striking nudes and portraits with a composition enriched by strong chiaroscuro, exciting areas of negative space and the natural grain and knots of his signature pine panel canvas.

On Wednesday, 4 May, we hosted the opening of Kelly’s Solo Exhibition ‘Outsiders’, however this was not just any opening. That evening was also the beginning of a new journey for artist, Kelly John Gough and fashion designer, Kat van Duinen.

Youngblood has had a range of events & happenings in our space, sharing in interesting and loving moments in the past, but to be part of the surprise engagement of Kelly & Kat was a night to remember.

We asked Kelly John Gough a few questions to get an inside look into this artist’s life.

What was going on in your head on the opening night of  ‘Outsiders’?
Any exhibition of new work is nerve-wracking: you are putting your work, heart & soul out there to the public for criticism and feedback. But for the opening of ‘Outsiders’, all that energy was definitely eclipsed by how nervous I was to ask Kat to marry me! I’m not the biggest fan of public speaking, and this would be one of the most important speeches I would ever give in my life – so I was a ball of nerves! I had this whole speech planned that felt very long when I’d practised it, but then seemed to last just a few seconds when I actually stood up to ask Kat to be my wife. It was amazing to be surrounded by everything I love for that moment: friends, clients, family and my artwork.

What’s in the cards for you for the rest of the year?
I’m looking forward to working towards another two stories this year, with the opportunity to hopefully open one of them with a solo in Joburg early 2017. In June, some of my work is part of an exhibition at New York’s JMC Gallery and I’m also excited to hang some curated pieces at The Cosmopolitan, a new luxury lifestyle building in Joburg’s Maboneng precinct, which opens on 1st July.

What is an artistic outlook on life?
To me an artistic outlook is to truly look at everything you see, to never take anything for granted and to keep learning and honing your skills.

How do you see the role of art & artists in today’s society?
I believe art has a similar function to the role it has played for thousands of years: it is a mirror we hold up to ourselves and to society, by which we can offer insight, criticism and commentary on who we are and what we need to change. It also adds a layer of much-needed beauty to the world – something that I believe is vital for all of us, and for our happiness.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
Make art every day – don’t wait for inspiration.
What art form do you think is most underrated?


The most indispensable item in your studio?
My eyes

What’s the last great book you read?
‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman

What work of art do you wish you owned?
‘Anything’ by Egon Schiele

What music inspires you the most?
Classical, Chopin

What cheers you up? Work

What is your favourite food?
Curry Vindaloo

What wouldn’t you do without in life?
My family

What question do you hate to answer?
‘How long does it take to paint a picture?’

The most overused word in your vocab?

If your life was a movie, who would play you, who would be the director and why?
Jeff Bridges – need I explain?
The Cohen brothers – their cinematography is art

Come and view Kelly John Gough’s solo exhibition, ‘Outsiders’ running till the 27th of May and perhaps you might also leave agreeing with the him, that life is too short to be a perpetual insider, isn’t it?