Kelvin Heffernan 1958 – 2013

Long-time studio artist Kelvin John Heffernan passed away peacefully on Friday 17th May surrounded, as he wished, by family and friends after a short battle with cancer.

Commencing at Arts Project Australia in 1991, Kelvin’s artwork remained strong and consistent over his career. He was a dedicated artist who overcame his physical difficulties to produce works of great confidence and intent.

Equally at home working in paint, pastel, pencil, ink or ceramics, Kelvin created art inspired by both imagination and life. Often the subjects or themes would be violent, involving guns, daggers, snarling dogs or dragons, but they could just as equally be tender, especially in his portrayals of people he cared for

In Kelvin’s work the warrior figure appears again and again, not so much as the aggressor, but the defender, fighting life’s battles on a singular and individual quest. There is also a sense of the outsider in these depictions: perhaps this is the figure of the artist, an existential portrait of inner and outer lives. For Kelvin, in many ways life was a battle, but he took its challenges with resilience and a sense of the ability to overcome. Nowhere is this more evident than in his art.

Kelvin was a stalwart and significant member of the Arts Project studio. Always gentle, polite and with a great sense of humour. In some of his early works a long-necked bird appeared. Kelvin gave this bird a name: “The Butt Head Bird.” Now, whether this bird was so-called for its reference to an Americanised word for a part of the human anatomy, or whether it was an inversion of “Head Butt,’ we were not too sure, but whenever it appeared Kelvin would quietly chuckle with a mischievous delight.

Within a year of starting in the studio, Kelvin’s work was shown as part of a major Arts Project Australia exhibition Inside Out/Outside In, at the National Gallery of Victoria. Over his career his was included in more than fifty exhibitions, both in Australia and overseas. He has been represented by Arts Project Australia at every Melbourne Art Fair since 1996, and shown in major Australian commercial galleries including Australian Galleries (Sydney & Melbourne), Greenaway Art Gallery (Adelaide) the Chapman Gallery (Canberra). Through an association with the Australian Print Workshop his work is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. He is also represented in the STOARC Collection of Outsider Art in Sydney.

Through his work Kelvin was able to express a personal realm in powerful visual imagery. What typifies his work is its fervent, controlled energy: his use of paint unmistakeable in its physicality. Kelvin’s dedication and productivity have left us a rich and enduring legacy. Anyone who knew him in the studio could not help connecting with his engaging presence and admiring his passionate approach to art-making. He will be greatly missed as part of the Arts Project community.

Cheryl Daye, May 2013


Please join us to celebrate the life of

Kelvin Heffernan 1958 – 2013

family member – friend – artist

On behalf of Kelvin Heffernan’s family and friends, Arts Project Australia would like to invite you to a celebration of Kelvin’s life, to be held in the Arts Project Australia Gallery at 10am on 5 June 2013, commencing with a Memorial Service in recognition of Kelvin’s life as a family member, friend and artist, and followed by morning tea in the Studio where Kelvin spent so much of his creative life.Kelvin’s artistic career will also be celebrated formally in his solo exhibition in the Gallery, and informally in the Studio, where work chosen by the Artsworkers who worked so closely with Kelvin will be on display.


10am Wed 5 Jun 2013
Arts Project Australia gallery
24 High Street Northcote VIC 3070
P 03 9482 4484 E [email protected]
Followed by morning tea in the Arts Project Australia studio