Nature has always been point of reference to art be it figural or abstract, plastic or flat. It is inextricably interwoven with virtually every piece of art at the level of texture, sounds or colors. This fact is acknowledged both by the context where Melanie Miller paints, and with the selection of what she paints.
Melanie’s studio is a small shed located on Eel Pie Island in West London. The spirit of the place can easily be sensed having in mind the fact that the Island is only reachable by boat or by foot, and that the first bridge was put in place in 1957. A true artists’ utopia, many would approve, especially its occupants. Eel Pie Island Art Studios are open to the public only twice a year, within the events called Artists' Open Studios.
All of the works carry complexity reminiscent of herbaria or fossil-like findings. Although they contain a simple, common place motives those paintings are, paradoxically, dense, and demanding to grasp. Through layers of paint and complex texture sublime quality emerges. But the Nature we are confronted with is not the nature of the Grand Canyon or something so large that exceed our capacity to comprehend. Yet, there is a metaphysical suspense to them.
The Natural History, as the very title of the show suggests, is the series of paintings with a well known iconography – flowers, insects, birds (see more about the bird studies at the Widewalls Collection Zadok). Those motives, prima facie “insignificant”, work as powerful vehicle of nostalgia. But nostalgia about what? Various things could be said in response. One of them may rely on the philosophical idea of “Unconcealment”, the idea that what entities are depends on the conditions that allow their manifestations. Those natural objects are the first objects we learn how to name or designate as children. Through them we are getting to realize distinction between things, between the One and the Many. It is only after acts of naming that our world becomes intelligible, and eventually multitudinous. This very initial events of naming lose their power by overuse of the pragmatical language in the complex society in which we happen to find ourselves in. Nostalgia about the authenticity of metaphysical experience, those original encounters through which we feel in the same time connectedness to the whole, as well as difference and identity (more about the Community Identity Stability) in respect to other entities, is captured in these works. The natural history here is a history of language, or correlatively, the paleontology of Being.
Staging an exhibition inspired by the artist's own studio and its natural environment has significance of its own. This show at the meta-level suggests a specific art theory that locates the essence of art in the processes and circumstances of its creation. Natural History “The Study of Plants and Animals through Observation” by Melanie Miller will be exhibited at the Long & Ryle Gallery in London from February 5 to March 6 2015. The works range between £350 and £2,400 (excluding VAT).
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