Karen Melvin: OFFCUTS – Homing In

A show for Small House Cottage, and for the ‘Large & Small’ group-exhibition in Slaley, Northumberland, where the Cottage and Garage are on TOUR! March – May 2022 as part of the collaborative curation project SMALL HOUSE NORTH EAST co-curated by Karen Melvin and Eldi Dundee.

Large & Small  
Karen Melvin, Claudia Sacher, and Carl von Weiler

in association with Small House Gallery North-East

at Slaley Commemoration Hall, Slaley Village, Northumberland, NE47 0BQ 

Friday 13th May 2022, 7-9pm Saturday/Sunday 14th-15th May, 11am-5pm

For more info on the Slaley show go to:

Whole Cottage View, Front & Back

Karen Melvin is an exhibiting artist with a studio in Northumberland, who mixes painting, drawing and photography. She constructs imagery from an association with nature, gardening and the environment, how it has gone amiss, how to change our perspective. She was a lecturer in photography at Cleveland College of Art and Design, Middlesbrough, and a member of Northern Arts Photography Panel. She was prize winner in Open Up North, Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, and was selected for the Great North Art Affair and many exhibitions including Borealis at Flowers East Gallery, London; Flying Falling, the Customs House, South Shields; Way Down South: End of the Road, Upper Fusion Gallery, South Shields. She collaborated with Claudia Sacher in ‘No.3’, an installation at High Green Arts, Tarset, for Great Northumberland. Last year she showed ‘Torn Photos’ to launch a new exhibition space at Healey Church, Northumberland. During lockdown she exhibited as part of Restriction, an exhibition at Clayhill Arts, Bridgewater, putting miniature imagery in specimen drawers, and the online ‘Lost Letters, The 3am project’. A current collaboration with Claudia Sacher, of large canvases exchanged and worked on both sides during lockdown, produced the exhibition, Breath of my Garden, on at Gibside National Trust.

I like to walk and garden, tending to the environment. I mix painting and photography, constructing imagery from an association of birds, flowers, people, rocks, trees, surfaces. Part of the narrative that has emerged is protection for the land and wildlife associated with our eco-system, especially birds, flowers and trees. Working locations include forests, moors, old quarries, mined out areas, and ancient woodland scraps left behind from farming, where the landscape has a very particular sense of place, often a ruined landscape trying to recover. I play with ideas on canvas, tearing up and gluing on photographs and then reconstructing what might have been, creating a new space from imagined gestures. These gestural marks recall a sense of loss while revelling in the vitality of a garden.

Karen Melvin, artist statement 2022, in relation to ‘Offcuts: Homing In’
Pink Sleep, Wind Blown, and Purple Curl: Rose Room
Bud Burst: Upper Hall
Tropical Walk, and Sheer Petals: Crane Room
Garden Pinks, and Pink Sky: Gray Room
Three Dianthus, and Pink Shoot: Lobby
Bowes Table, Japanese Quince, Bowes Bonnets, Calceolaria, and Blue Dahlia: Living Room (Both Sides)

Dark Twig, Cabinet, Twig, and Bud: Kitchen
Skull & Backbone, Zodiac Room
Upland Poppies: Stripy Room
Green Wizard: Lemur Room
Idea for Small House Cottage:  ‘Offcuts: Homing In

My original painted offcuts were landscapes because they were left on my wide studio window ledges overlooking the garden, woods and distant moors.  The dollhouse model I constructed to imagine the proposal better is a more contained space, so the imagery on the offcuts has become more interior in subject and intent. A doll’s house is a place for play and testing out relationships and roles in a metaphoric home, an inviting creative playground. The tantalising glimpse of garden imagery on the outsized wallpaper in Small House Cottage reminds me of both a physical garden and a “paradise” garden. Likewise the imagery in my new little paintings comes from real flowers and from sketches of interior details in museums/ stately homes, which are a sort of paradise home, if you strip away the idea of wealth and status. It is intriguing to play off the images of ornate possessions with a cottage dolls house and my down to earth cottage garden here full of simple flowers. Folded paper shapes are recycled from past projects that were also centred on ideas around a garden, including some from the exhibition “Paper Dolls”, which plays with ideas of scale, domestic relationships, and fairy tale narratives from a feminist perspective. These photographic paper shapes are placed in relation to the solid wooden painted offcuts, making another dialogue with the imagined and the real.

Karen Melvin, 2022

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