Helen Melbourne


Resistance. Irresistible. I am constantly drawn to what I can’t control. What is natural, what needs to be resisted? What have I not explored?

My objective is not so much to control perfectly the hand/eye/mind and tools, but rather to struggle with the materials; to work with them; to draw out the spirit, the life, the whimsy, the fear; to search for meaning.

I am a rebel, a resister; an explorer. I demonstrate, protest. I search for truth hidden in the fog, immersed in the swamp, heard in the news, hidden in dense forest or in grains of sand along the shore. I search for structure, meaning and frameworks for truth, forging vision, mapping directions. In my work I am torn between the destructive actions of humanity and the nurturing growth of the natural environment.

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A paradox within the process: to see the materials resisting my touch, to learn to expose the essential in what is complex, and the complex in what appears simple. I can build layer upon layer, letting pigment flow and dry, building stitches, structures and textures, given only a hint of leading – then suddenly see a way to highlight form, and animation from inside the colour, shapes and lines.

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Scraps of life, used up and discarded, find their way into my art: bones, broken parts, odd small things found on sidewalks or beaches, broken shells, broken toys, rags and remnants: what remains when others’ work or play is done. I leave their shadows in the paint, and use them again and again. Or I place them with fleeting permanence where unexpected images and feelings rise to meet the viewer’s eyes and lead them to new paths.

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I can use the camera to capture an image, only to find it has eluded me or transformed into a different picture than I intended. Wind shifts the trees; moves the clouds, changes the light; the rarely seen feasting woodpecker in the tree refuses to pose. The ethereal becomes dark; the mist burns off into sunlit glints.

I am drawn both to the universal, and to the detailed world of microcosm. I observe and absorb imagery and patterns, in what might seem at first to be chaos, searching for meaning beyond words. I love both the edginess of downtown urban life the tranquility of the ocean beach, and the world I inhabit in my imagination. And often I need to speak about social justice.

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Waste and colour are my materials for renewal: light and growth, my spirit. And always, beneath it all, the breathing greens of the old growth rainforest, red sunset hints on glass and brick, and redwing’s early call. I want to lead others to see what I see, but also to show me what I have not seen in my own work: shadows of leaves on a bedroom ceiling, black spring lace across a lawn, pictures of desert dunes and wadis from high above, the geometric pattern in a bee’s eyes, or the dark side of society.

A paradox:  meaning from morass, morass in meaning.

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