Surface Energy

Feb 17, 2012

All photos by Natalie Hayllar (eat read love)

A piece of desert in the city
A serendipitous conversation in her final Honours year, studying fine arts at COFA, UNSW, landed local artist Melanie Duncan in remote Central Australia at a place called Docker River (Kaltukatjara) throughout 2009-10. Docker River is located in the Northern Territory 200Km west of Uluru, approximately 8 hours from Alice Springs.  

This experience has inspired the works displayed in her debut solo show 'Desert Spirit' at Project Contemporary Artspace in Wollongong, showing until the 26 February. Memories of Melanie's community work, first in an Indigenous Art Centre across the border in WA, and as a Youth worker delivering a women’s art program at Docker River have transpired into the colourful and beautiful abstract works on canvas and boards. 

You might be familiar with Melanie’s 14 large jelly fish panels currently sprawled across the front of the Wollongong City Art Gallery, along with previous works entrenched in ocean themes. This new work is so vibrant, colourful and refreshing, and still maintains a connection to previous work by displaying themes about deep geological time and cycles of nature - where time is not linear. Other works capture what she calls ‘surface energy’ in a place where it’s difficult for ‘whitefella’ to reach any deeper.   

Melanie has often talked about her amazing experiences in Docker River but these paintings describe her time in the outback so much deeper and richer than any spoken word.

"it was a privilege to experience this part of Australia – meet so many beautiful people, lifelong friends and experience complete immersion in a stunning landscape – it was a glimpse into a culture so deep that you feel it in the land. The wise old Desert oaks – some 600 years old – will always call you back"

As someone who has watched Melanie paint and create beautiful works of art since she was twelve years old, and now to be a part of her first solo exhibition some 25 years later  I have admit I was blown away and quite emotional walking into the exhibition. I am truly proud of the dedicated community work and the inspiring artworks that have blossomed from this beautiful and talented artist and dear friend.  Congratulations Mel, you are an inspiration to us all!

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