Dean Melbourne unveils his second solo show in London this February at Gallery 8. Curated by Coates and Scarry, This Myth showcases Melbourne’s most recent paintings and works on paper. Exploring the dark corners of his subconscious and fragments of mythology, Melbourne’s earthy oil paintings evoke a realm of otherworldly figures in the midst of a wild Bacchanal. Creating hybrid creatures that play on myth and legend, Melbourne connects the bodily with the natural as foliage and figures transform into one.
Speaking to our primal selves, Melbourne’s new works unrelentingly mine the animalistic side of human nature to bring our most hidden desires to the forefront. Expressive and energetic, the paintings draw on the Bacchae and Ovid’s Metamorphosis as touchstones in his unbridled exploration of the psyche. This Myth is an exhibition that seeks to generate a new mythology, one that borrows and reshapes inherited traditions, drawing on the past to create a new lexicon of expression. We speak with the artist.
A: Your second solo show This Myth is being unveiled this month, can you tell us about the work on display?
DM: This show captures a significant transition for me. Practically, I have made a change to my process of creating paintings. For the first time I have worked with a built set, models and props. In the past, I have enjoyed the game of plundering found images and repurposing them to generate obscure juxtapositions and new suggestions of narrative. In building a set, choosing props, models and costume I have almost become stage manager to my own productions. This has allowed for more freedom and has helped me reconnect to my childhood memories of getting lost in other worlds.
A: Your work is inspired by legendary tales and medieval texts, are there any specific sources that you draw from?
DM: I don’t come at particular texts from an academic perspective, but there are certainly specific references in there. I like to leave a little trail of connections and clues. They don’t really lead anywhere in terms of a conclusion or meaning, but are, I hope, another opportunity for immersion in the work. Drawing on my childhood memory of movies and books, I make very unscholarly leaps from Dante to Beowulf and on to Brian Catling’s The Voorh and back to Ted Hughes’ Ovid’s Metamorphosis. I think I have tried to let the atmosphere of those things push and pull me through the decisions I have made while painting.
A: Myth and legend tend to draw on the animalistic side of human nature. Are these themes that you are interested in exploring?
DM: Absolutely, I would say probably the thing that I am most interested in is exploring the sense of our physicality and how our bodies almost become inconvenient when faced with social convention and ideas of what is civilised. While there is an element of wider observation, more than anything, my work is about my own relationship with my animal side. My paintings address my conflicting feelings of desire and try to grapple with my own inhibitions as an artist.
A: Could you describe your working process? Do you research and plan out your work beforehand or do you adopt a more spontaneous approach?
DM: I start with feelings, and try to stay as submerged in them for as long as possible and from there, let things flow. I am much more instinctive than strategic in terms of my research process and am continually researching. After taking photographs of posed models, I have to feel my way back to the the original notion of the project and almost ignore them for a while. When actually painting I am definitely more successful when I stop thinking and just let my muscle memory take over. I often start to paint for long periods of time while talking on the phone. I don’t even realise I’m painting and then I am away and into it. It’s a trick I play on myself to get going.
Dean Melbourne: This Myth, 28th February – 12th March, Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street, St James, London, SW1Y 6BN
For more information about please visit: www.coatesandscarry.com.
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1. Dean Melbourne, Black Phosphor, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.