R E M N A N T S
Encompassing painting and sculpture, Heidi Melamed’s practice reveals a fascination with form, especially colour, and the optical properties of light. Ever alert to new materials and methods with which to explore the affective potential of her formalist approach, the Sydney-based artist tempers her experimental flair with a perfectionist’s attention to detail and a highly-resolved aesthetic grounded in geometric abstraction.
For her second solo exhibition at Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert, Melamed has transformed industrial offcuts into sleek sculptural structures, used pencil shavings to create fields of colour that straddle painting and collage, and constructed tonal relief panels that exploit the reflective qualities of glitter and interference paint to meditative effect.
Investigating the aesthetic potential of discarded or otherwise overlooked materials, Remnants achieves a kind of artistic alchemy. Focusing on colour and light, Heidi Melamed invites us to consider the concept of everyday transfiguration – those unbidden moments when we apprehend beauty hiding in plain sight. In so doing, she fine-tunes our capacity to transcend the apparent and glimpse the ideal.
In the Vertex series, the artist literally deconstructs a rainbow of pencils to make paintings, using both the colour-edged wooden shavings and the granular sharpenings of pencil pigment. While painstaking, this innovative, process-based approach produces visually spectacular results. The six works in this series are on circular, elliptical and pointed-elliptical supports.
Each shaving has been meticulously affixed to the support to build up patterns that recall bird plumage. The sharpenings have been applied in a freer but no less time-consuming manner to create lyrically abstract ‘colour maps’ of pure and blended pigments, reminiscent in parts of hundreds and thousands.
The delicate shavings of wood add their own champagne-coloured tints to the visual mix, while the tiny bands of colour around each (taken from the identifying colour on the outside of each pencil) are variously shaped like fans, squiggles and zigzags.
Each of Melamed’s wall-based MOnuMENT structures comprises four tracery-board offcuts sourced from a perspex fabrication factory and assembled so as to delineate a rectangular portal of negative space at the centre.
Edged in rose-gold mirrored glass, MOnuMENT White is painted white, silver, copper and brown, with an illusionistic ellipse of light framing the ‘doorway’. MOnuMENT Black is mostly that, with the addition of brown and a slanting ellipse in silver. The structure is edged in smoky-black mirrored glass.
Carefully selecting the ‘found’ tracery patterns, Melamed unifies the disparate surfaces through spatial arrangement and the application of paint – in particular, by employing a spotlight effect that appears to bathe each object in focused illumination.
Completing the exhibition is Congruent Grid, a suite of eight paintings on board in a formation of two rows of four. The suite features a repeating pattern formed by intersecting parabolic curves, and the pointed ellipse in the middle of each painting echoes the contours of several Vertex works.
Austere and meditative, Congruent Grid is a subtle elaboration of mineral tones – cream, beige, salt-pink, copper – set against darker shades of steel-blue, grey and black. Several of the paintings are enlivened by sections in relief, which interrupt the picture plane, turning the image into an object. Employed sparingly, glitter and interference paint serve to reflect and transmit the play of light across the lustrous surfaces.