Melinda Schawel's new body of work, Solitude, reflects the artist’s continued exploration into the materiality of paper and physicality of the creative process, while paying homage to the awe inspiring power of nature. Earlier this year, she and her family were amongst a group of 40 who hiked the remote 53 km Milford Track in the South Island of New Zealand - a magical, tactile place draped in moss and lichen, flax and ferns, where in the space of an hour, heavy rains turn trickling creeks into raging rivers and waterfalls. This feeling of unpredictability, paired with the accompanying solitude of at times trekking alone for hours on end amongst such unspoilt beauty was, as Schawel describes, ‘intoxicating.’
There is an accompanying shift in Schawel’s palette and technique in this series, which conjures the verdant lushness and textures of the Fiordland’s ancient rainforests. Greens, umbers and deep reds make their debut. There is a weightiness to some of these new works but also a feeling of lightness and fragility. Multi-layered background washes and highly pigmented pools of ink are poured and allowed to spread and dry under plastic. Sections of paper are torn off the surface with a scalpel and an engraving tool is used to drilled into and through the paper, creating spatterings of patterned holes that define negative spaces. The push-pull tension typically present in Schawel’s clustered compositions remains but the volume appears to be turned up a few levels, successfully encapsulating the intensity of her experience on the Milford Track.
Melinda Schawel has exhibited nationally and internationally since 1995. She was recently commissioned by the City of Casey in Melbourne to create an integrated public art project and her work has featured in Art Collector, Artist Profile magazines. She is represented in many public and private collections, including Crown Towers in Perth and the National Gallery of Australia.