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Oli Kellett: Waiting for a Sign

Posted on February 13, 2024 - By HackelBury Fine Art
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Oli Kellett: Waiting for a Sign
Oli Kellett: Waiting for a Sign

November 24, 2023 - March 2, 2024


HackelBury is pleased to present Oli Kellett’s third solo exhibition, Waiting for a Sign, from 24th November 2023 until 2nd March 2024, accompanied by the book 'Cross Road Blues' published by Nazraeli Press .

Waiting for a Sign focuses on Kellett’s iconic Crossroad Blues series of large-scale portraits of people waitng at crossroads in urban cities across the globe from London to Mexico City and numerous across North America. The series began in 2016 when Kellett was visiting Los Angeles during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election and the country was at a political crossroads. It continued to evolve over the following four years as a result of Kellett’s numerous visits to countries including Spain, Japan, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

In these times of seismic geo-political shifts and significant global events, the series has now taken on a universal significance. It captures still moments of contemplation in which individuals question the direction they take and the life they make. Inspired by the title of Gauguin’s painting “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this series reflects our existential search for an answer.


Oli Kellett

6th Street, Los Angeles 2017 © Oli Kellett



Oli Kellett

Calle Venustiano, Carranza, Mexico City 2019 © Oli Kellett



Oli Kellett

4th Avenue, Seattle 2017 © Oli Kellett


As the writer and philosopher Nigel Warburton writes in his introductory essay for the accompanying book ‘Crossroad Blues’ published by Nazraeli Press;

“The step each person is about to take seems far more momentous than simply crossing a street”.

As Oli Kellett explains: “I’m looking for a moment when somebody is psychologically removed from the physical space they are in, alone with their thoughts for a few seconds.”

The large-scale photographs in ‘Crossroad Blues’ series contrast the anonymity of urban space with the individuality of human experience. The scale of these photographs captures tangible human expression and allows the viewer to recognise a moment of conscious contemplation in their lives.

Kellett’s commitment to find the perfect light saw him walking the streets of cities for days before setting up his large format architectural camera and waiting to capture these private moments. The way the buildings frame his subjects and his focus on the light and composition creates a cinematic quality, providing a dramatic architectural backdrop to these unstaged scenes which reveal the artist’s deep interest in the human psyche. Kellett’s interest in art history began at art college, when he took up street painting to recreate Renaissance masterpieces. His last composition in the ‘Crossroad Blues’ series in 2019 on Avenida Almirante Barroso in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil shows two people looking skywards, one of them with the gesture of the finger pointing up to the sky. Reminiscent of Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’ painting, posing questions of spirituality and immortality, this was to be Kellett’s last work in the series. For him it felt like a sign and a natural stepping stone to explore more metaphysical ideas in his work.

I don’t look for people or hunt people down. I turn up with my kit, set up and I wait for someone else to turn up on the other side of the road. I feel like we meet in the middle somehow and then we go on our separate ways. The crossroads becomes this space where I like to think people are wrestling with these big ideas – guidance, morality and the weight of decision making. Oli Kellet.


Oli Kellett

Grand Avenue, Chicago 2017 © Oli Kellett



Oli Kellett

Hubbard Street, Chicago 2017 © Oli Kellett


About Oli Kellett
Oli Kellett is a British artist based in Hastings, UK. He began taking photographs in 2008. Since 2016 he has devoted himself to exploring the urban setting and our relationship with the crossroad and how people navigate their lives in his series ‘Crossroad Blues’.

After studying at Central Saint Martins, Kellett began his career as a creative in the advertising industry. Although Kellett had experimented with black and white photography since his teenage years, he moved onto colour photography and a large format camera when he left the advertising industry. While Kellett is strongly influenced by painting and the compositional techniques used, he loves the chance moment which one can capture with a photograph and is intrigued by moments of human contemplation. In 2018 Oli Kellett was awarded the Rose Award for Photography and the Royal Academy Arts Club Award, London. In 2021 he was shortlisted for the Photo London Emerging Photographer Award. He was awarded the Royal Photographic Society International Photography Exhibition 161 Bronze Prize. Works from Kellett’s ‘Soap Drawings’ series were included in the RA Summer Exhibition in 2022 and 2023.

Oli Kellett has works in private collections in the UK, Europe and the USA.

“I’m looking for a moment where individuals are dwarfed by what surrounds them, appearing lost but searching for something. They then go on their way, whichever direction that may be.”

Prior to the ‘Crossroads’ series he worked on a series titled ‘Welcome to Paradise’ where he travelled around the UK over ten years photographing places with the word ‘paradise’ in the title; often revealing that these places were anything but paradise and far removed from any utopian vision.


Oli Kellett

Illinois Street, Chicago 2017 © Oli Kellett



Oli Kellett

Madison Street, New York 2019 © Oli Kellett


About HackelBury Fine Art
HackelBury Fine Art was founded twenty-five years ago by Marcus Bury and Sascha Hackel. The gallery is committed to championing artists working with the visual arts who push the boundaries of their medium to create meaningful and contemplative work.

The London based gallery initially showcased classic photography from the 20th century including Henri Cartier- Bresson, Berenice Abbott, Willy Ronis, Malick Sidibe, Sebastiao Salgado and Edouard Boubat. The transition from traditional photography to more conceptual work was as intuitive as it was organic, beginning with artists such as William Klein, Pascal Kern, Doug and Mike Starn, Garry Fabian Miller, Katja Liebmann, Ian McKeever, Stephen Inggs and Bill Armstrong. In recent years the gallery has also taken on emerging artists such as Oli Kellett, Nadezda Nikolova, Alys Tomlinson and Coral Woodbury.

Each artist, whether emerging or established, creates work defined by a depth of thought and breadth and consistency of approach. The small group of artists with whom HackelBury work, represent a diversity of practice yet share an artistic integrity which the gallery is fully committed to supporting in the long-term.
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