Colour Sensation: The Works of Melinda Harper

Written by Elizabeth Fritz

Melinda Harper’s vast kaleidoscopic collection of works has been carefully curated from three decades’ worth of paintings, screen prints, embroideries and much more.

Melinda Harper, Untitled, 2013, oil on canvas, 153 x 122.5 cm, Private collection, Adelaide
Melinda Harper, Untitled, 2013, oil on canvas, 153 x 122.5 cm, Private collection, Adelaide

Harper’s love of abstraction, colour and all manner of materials is evident in every piece. For her it’s in the process of looking and experiencing that developed her complex and precise visual language, which she translates into vivid and dynamic works. Nature and the colours in nature are two of her biggest sources of inspiration; it brings her awareness, she says. “When I look at green, I see ten greens, the flickering colours changing and the movement.”

It’s through this type of intimacy that her works are realised. The colours, which are all carefully considered and mixed by Harper, are also a crucial element in her paintings. Harper explains, “It’s the endless possibilities of where it can go next, and the potential in expanding visually is what drives me.”

Melinda Harper, Untitled, 2000, oil on canvas, 183 x 152.3 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Melinda Harper, Untitled, 2000, oil on canvas, 183 x 152.3 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Harper’s art is meant to encourage the viewer to really look.  Some of her paintings are lines as fine as pick-up sticks; some resemble glass shards or laser beams, while others lean towards mosaic-like patterns. Harper says, “I was always interested in abstract art, in the feel of the apple rather than the apple itself.”

Colour Sensation: The Works of Melinda Harper, Installation view, photograph: Christian Capurro, Heide Museum of Modern Art
Colour Sensation: The Works of Melinda Harper, Installation view, photograph: Christian Capurro, Heide Museum of Modern Art

Colour Sensation: The Works of Melinda Harper
Heide Museum of Modern Art – Heide III
7 Templestowe Rd, Victoria 3105
27 June – 25 October

Jennifer Whitten – American hyperrealist painter

Jennifer Whitten

We had the opportunity of having Jennifer Whiten, an American hyperrealist painter living and working in Melbourne, present for us at our Enderby Studio Art Program class.

Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts: Washington University in St. Louis and is currently undertaking a Master of Contemporary Art: Victorian College of the Arts.

Much of her recent work has used images of young girls in otherwise ubiquitous everyday situations such as cooking in the kitchen or dressed up in fancy dresses, common day stuff apart from that their faces are dominated by these massive mouths that obliterate all facial features. Jennifer described how each of these mouths form the shape of the first letter of a word and therefore carry hidden meaning which perhaps someone will unlock. The girls are all communication, and chatter, perhaps as they discover their everyday world and the language that represents and negotiates it.

Large areas of the works are left in flat ‘pop’ colour, negating the overall illusion of space and representation. These areas sometimes go as far as to suggest absence or a hole. These areas not only break up the cohesion of representation but suggest a sense of something beyond, another dimension perhaps. This other plane contrasts with the everyday banter of materiality which otherwise pervades the images. As she expressed an interest in the theory of the 4th dimension during her talk, perhaps Jennifer is looking beyond the limitations of a commonplace material existence and the limitations of how that existence is described.

Jennifer Whitten 1

Jennifer discussed her work, her technique and her position as a hyperrealist painter undertaking her Masters degree at Victoria College of the Arts. She spoke about finding her way through the current dominant visual arts culture which in Australian institutions heavily emphasises new media, installation and conceptual art. Jennifer spoke of the legacy of Modernism which reacted against the history of representation in art and that this reaction persists against the style of work she practices. Despite these difficulties, following a successful recent exhibition Jennifer has noticed a more open attitude to her work.

Jennifer has spent much of this year painting on glass and perspex rather than the previous wood panels and when I visited her a few weeks ago, she had a large panel of thick perspex suspended from her studio roof, upon which she was painting a life-size self portrait as Ophelia. It is an impressive piece of work requiring a wet on wet technique whereby the highlights are pushed through the existing wet paint. Jennifer prefers to work on areas of the painting wet and will sometimes work for days without stopping, to achieve this. I will post about this work as soon as it is finished.

Marco Corsini

Six ways that Life Drawing improves you

1. Life drawing helps improve your fundamental drawing skills

Drawing the figure demands a lot of an artist as the anatomical and structural complexity of the figure is difficult to master. Many artists use drawing from a model to see and describe subtle nuances of proportion, tone, texture, space and gesture.

Student Life Drawing
Student Life Drawing

2. Drawing from a model increases the fluency and economy of your drawing.

With the inevitable time limitations of a Life Drawing session and the range of expression available from a Life Model, an artist can constantly find new and more economical ways to describe the figure. The possibilities for expression available to an artist are virtually unlimited.3.

3. Drawing the body tunes you to the visual proportions, rhythms and harmonies of the body

As with drawing from nature in general, working from the body’s complex proportions, rhythms and harmonies can tune an artist in to many rich visual possibilities. This could prove useful in in other fields such as architecture, design, various forms of composition and engineering. It could even help art practice!

Student Life Drawing
Student Life Drawing

4. Drawing as a form of meditation

Drawing from a Life Model encourages you to focus your mind upon and respond to the human body and to a human being. Not only is this a great way of clearing your mind but it can invite a reality check by reminding us of our common humanity.

5. Drawing from life is better than drawing from photographs

An authentic experience in our digital era is becoming more of a rarity. Life Drawing allows you to see and capture the human body with a sensitivity and understanding that you simply cannot achieve through copying a photograph.

6. Drawing within a group encourages learning

Life Drawing classes not only bring like-minded people together, they also help artists explore a variety of ways to approach a single subject.

We do not often have the privilege of viewing individual artists’ processes, and Life Drawing classes encourage sharing and critiquing of work in a relaxed and non-judgemental environment. You will always find artists of varying skills in a Life Drawing class.

MAC’s next tutored Life Drawing Short Course with Jesse Dayan begins on October 30. Find out more information here.

Tony Irving

Tony Irving, Dutch Perspective 2014 oil on linen 92 x 122 cm
Tony Irving, Dutch Perspective 2014 oil on linen 92 x 122 cm

Tony Irving will be speaking at Enderby Studio Art Program next Tuesday.  A Melbourne-based artist, Tony’s figurative work often originates from everyday life and contains playful narrative nuances. The work demonstrates a mastery of colour and composition, borrowing from the great painting techniques of the past to create relevant work for our time. You can find out more about Tony at http://tonyirvingartist.com.