Light as a Feather:
12/08/2023 - 13/09/2023
Through the meticulous techniques of engraving and perforation, Melinda Schawel creates works that celebrate light, movement and texture. Continually inspired by the minutiae of natural elements and eroded surfaces, she was specifically drawn to the exquisite artistry of a single feather in this series – its tree-like structure and symmetrical yet distinctive markings, lightweight and flexible but rigid enough for flight.
With scalpel and drill in hand, Schawel’s processes are slow and deliberate: carving, puncturing and tearing the surface of smooth, thick paper, not quite feather-light but flexible and durable enough for power tools. Pools of diluted ink are poured and trapped under (re-purposed) plastic sheets, forming amorphous shapes that float and shimmer on the surface of the paper, mimicking the elusive iridescence of feathers if caught at just the right angle. At times it is the absence of colour altogether that allows light to play a more transformative role as it traverses and illuminates the heavily etched lines and intricate perforations.
This labour-intensive process allows the artist to continue pushing the boundaries of the paper, and in some instances completely alter the surface, whilst retaining an illusion of effortlessness and fluidity. It is a delicate dance of sorts, a form of release and an exchange of energy. Once displayed outside the confines of the studio, there is a further transference of energy as the works beckon the viewer into a realm of quiet intimacy. Despite their ephemeral appearance, there is a sense of permanence that lingers long after viewing.
As reflected throughout ‘Light as a Feather’, the artist blurs the boundary between paper and sculpture more evidently than in the past. As she explains: “Last year I started taking ceramic classes and developed an instant affinity with clay, which led me to think more deeply about the sculptural realm that I have been teetering on the edge of for some time… [These works] rely less on a varied palette and more heavily on light and shadow, and present exciting opportunities to explore further.”
Melinda Schawel holds a Bachelor of Fine Art & Communication and a postgraduate degree in Printmaking. She has exhibited throughout Australia and overseas since 1995 and has been selected for many prestigious commissions and prizes including the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing, Whyalla Art Prize, Nillumbik Prize, Fisher’s Ghost Award and WAMA Art Prize. She has been the recipient of residencies and workshops in Thailand, Belgium and Spain. Her work is held in major collections, such as the National Gallery of Australia and Artbank. Recently she was commissioned by the City of Casey to create a major, integrated public art project. The artist lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.
CLICK HERE To view a behind-the-scenes short film of exhibition works in progress – from the creation of ‘Light as a Feather’ to the show’s installation at the gallery.