Melissa’s current body of work speaks of a life lived on the land, an intimate connection with both the wild and tamed landscapes in her close daily interactions of living and working on a farm and revegetating native habitat. Ocean swimming, walking the dog, and drawing plein-air in the paperbark wetlands (a stones throw from her studio) are some of these deeply resonant & immersive experiences.
Whilst researching for this current exhibition, Melissa was looking for a term to describe a fleeting feeling of oneness that one might grasp when held enthral to nature: a quiet sense of contemplation, when time slows down, worries vanish and we are deeply present. Eutierria - from eu (good), tierra (the earth), ia (you), was coined by sustainability professor Glenn Albrecht, and describes this euphoric sense of being at one with nature, with a feeling of peace and connectedness. For Melissa, this happens when she works outside and responds to the sensory environment.
Melissa’s plein air drawings allow the viewer a glimpse into her working process and provide a visual clue to some of the shapes and forms that emerge in the resulting paintings. Her titles often allude to the narrative experience of being in these spaces, providing a glimpse into the thought process, and relevance of place. Paintings are created in her bush studio where she mostly works intuitively, often referencing sketchbook jottings as a way into the working process; “Sometimes I need to get back to the bare-bones of the landscape, and the sketchbooks allow me in and give me a starting point for the structure in the works. From there, anything can happen as I push paint around and challenge myself”
Visceral works in oil and hand-made beeswax medium are often allowed to develop of their own accord until a memory of landscape emerges. Experimentation, play, and pushing the work further is paramount to the process; through mark-making, colour challenges, and integrity to materials and surface.
Melissa completed a Bachelor of Arts (ART) Curtin University WA (1994), and then moved south where she and her partner have a family of three sons and run a small farm vineyard and cellar door. The last few years have seen Melissa more fully invest in her arts practice and she has been finalist in a number of national shows including Muswellbrook Art Prize (2019), The Paul Guest Prize for Drawing (2016), Kogarah Art Prize (2015), Albany Art Prize (2015), Lloyd Rees Landscape Prize (2015) & Fleurieu Art Prize (2011) amongst others.
image credit for artworks: Bo Wong
'My process begins with an immersion in the landscape; jotting notes; scribbling responses; and creating a shorthand code for the natural environment.'