Now open at Melusina Parkin’s gallery space, located above her Melu Deco store, is her latest exhibition, Cars. It is a small, cosy exhibition of a dozen pieces focused – as the name suggests – on cars. Or more specifically, cars in Second Life.
In keeping with Melu’s approach to her art, these are not simple studies of motor vehicles; Melu has an eye for detail and angle, and this is much in evidence in these pieces.
So, rather than presenting us with what might be regarded as “traditional” shots of cars – side views, three-quarter front or back views, etc., Melu presents us with images in which the framing and background is as important as the vehicle itself, or where the car is presented in unusual circumstances. Nor are these bright shiny models: Melu offers shots of vehicles that have seen better days.
The result is a collection of images where the vehicles depicted within them are more than just cars, they are characters, and the pictures containing them are studies of their nature. It’s an elegant series, each beautifully presented and with a story within it.
As well as Cars, visitors to the exhibition space can also view a copy of Melusina’s Second Life Exhibits, a gorgeous collection of her exhibitions between 2011 and 2019. Just click on the book and follow the web link.
Open from September 10th, 2019 at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery curated by Dido Haas, are two independent – yet in some ways complimentary – exhibitions by two gifted artists. Crossing Over features a 3D installation by Kaiju Kohime located in the middle of one of the gallery’s two arms, while Night Walks presents a further series of Melusina Parkin’s unique studies of Second Life. Both installation and imagery offer a richly layered environment in which thought is strongly provoked.
Crossing Over is the second installation Kaiju is presenting since his return to Second Life (his first being a collaborative piece with Electric Monday and entitled Orizuru (which you can read about here). It forms, in the words of the exhibition’s introduction, a commentary on the changing face of society’s thinking and structure:
The vertical small worlds we used to live in, illustrated by male white religious oppression, are slowly tilting towards a more horizontal and more human engagement. This installation is about the continuing struggle between verticalism and a horizontal way of thinking and being, about the masks we put on to protect ourselves from our mirror image.
The white-dominated element of religion (Christianity) is clearly symbolised by the main structure of the piece, which forms the framework of a great church. Within it, at the chancel, multiple white crosses float over the wireframe bust of a man as tendrils of light (thought / understanding / realisation?) fall from an angled blue cross to strike a mask that deflects them away – although it is showing signs of crumbling and breaking under their persistence.
It’s a clear and concise statement concerning religious oppression through the implementation of doctrine over belief / understanding. The white crosses stand as bars rigidly defining the dogma and the vertical nature of “white” Christianity as it is so sadly practised by some, wherein matters so often defined as “right” or “wrong” in terms of race, colour, gender and sexuality (perhaps more so in this present era than more recent times past). Meanwhile, the blue cross and the tendrils of light reflect that shift in thinking from dogma and vertical superiority towards the more compassionate, humanistic (and perhaps even more Christ-like?) “horizontal” view that we are in fact all equal; thus underlining the use of race, colour, gender and sexuality by some as masks and shields by which they seek to hold themselves apart from, and over, others.
Night Walks, meanwhile, offers a series of images that take us on “journeys into a dark world”. As the introduction notes:
Streets are empty in the night. At 3 or 4 am we can walk around without meeting people (just somebody who is “still” or “already” there, according to the words of the great Italian writer Italo Calvino, a night owl or a worker). So, we can look at buildings, parked cars, windows, street lamps and benches as they are the true inhabitants of that dark world.
Thus we are offered a series of night-time images taken from around Second Life offered in Melu’s unique perspective where she uses minimalism and close focus to tremendous effect. These are images that offer not so much a picture of a location but a glimpse into a world; sharply defined and focused they might be in their composition, but behind each one of them sits an entire story into which the imagination can fall.
Empty streets at night can be both enticing and frightening. We can be alone, even when just beyond the few inches of stone or brick that may separate us from the interior of house or apartment building, we know there are others, sleeping peacefully or – if lights are still to be seen through curtailed windows – going about their lives as we tread the pavements outside. Thus, we can wrap ourselves in a cloak of our own thoughts without fear of interruption or distraction.
But at the same time, the streets late at night can be unsettling: the familiar can be redrawn by the simple fall of light and shadow; doorways that by day might be welcoming can by night become places of menace. Thus – and again as the liner notes state, “Serenity and fear live together in the dark and empty streets. Which of them wins, depends on our mood. In the night the dark enchanting forest of the city becomes the landscape where the contrasting sides of our souls live.”
And it is in this contrasting sides of the soul that the link is formed between Night Walks and Crossing Over is formed. It is said that it is in the depths of night that one can most clearly hear the voice of God – or the voice of conscience, if you prefer. That quiet, insistent voice of challenge against dogma that cannot be silenced by the distractions of daytime life or deflected by the masks we might otherwise wear when not so deeply alone, and which calls into question our structure doctrine of thinking and encourages us towards a more open – dare I say “horizontal” view of the world around us.
The symbolism within and between both Crossing Over and Night Walks is both rich and powerful, offering multiple ways to interpret each as individual pieces and as interconnected exhibits (there is something of a symbolism for death in Crossing Over, for example, and the small hours of the night as seen in Night Walks are said to be the time when death visits the most – ideas which can taken interpretation of both into a whole new dimension).
In this, I could go on to write at length on both, but I’ll resist putting words into the artist’s mouths and ideas into your heads. Instead, I would encourage you to go to Nitroglobus and view both, and allow them to jointly speak to you. Both Night Walks and Crossing Over officially open at 12:00 noon SLT on Tuesday, September 8th, 2019.
Update, August 5th: Following the soft opening, Melusina and San are making changes to the exhibit and it appears the 3D elements of the image fames have been moved toe the rear of the image panels, so people see the “2D view” first, before walking around to see the faceted views.
Open at Ribong Gallery, curated by Santoshima, through August is Lonely Gazes, an exhibition of 24 images by Melusina Parkin, focusing on locations within Second Life.
Melusina is an artist whose work presents a fine blend of detail, space and minimalism, all carefully combined and crafted to present images that are elegant in their unique focus and rich in narrative and feeling. This is once again evident with this collection. However, within Lonely Gazes presents the 24 images in the most unique manner.
Each is framed as a photo-sculpture with two distinct sides. On the one (which tends to be facing the walls of the gallery, so may need a degree of camming unless you wall behind the displays) is a straightforward presentation of each of the image set against a black background.
On the other side of the frame is a further version of the image, overlaid with a truncated, transparent pyramid with either a smaller version of the image, or a “window” looking “in” to the image. The result of this is that the observer can select different angles from which to view the image: the smaller image sits proud of the larger, giving the impression it is being projected onto the background
Those with the “window” element, meanwhile offer a frame through which the observer’s focused can be drawn into a specific part of the image, which can shift as we cam around, as if examining the piece through a lens. In addition, the side faces of pyramid presents individual facets of the larger image.
I never cease to be drawn to Melusina’s work and the way her images allow us to become storytellers. They always present the idea that they are a part of a much broader canvas, one that extends well beyond their borders. Thus, they invite our imaginations to create stories around them. With the way in which the images in Lonely Gazes, this is magnified tremendously – in much the same way the faux 3D presentation of the pieces suggests we are viewing a magnified image of a picture on a lens hovering over that piece, or that we looking through a lens allowing us to focus into a specific part of the landscape and its story.
Visual, engaging and imaginative, Lonely Gazes is another extraordinary exhibition from Melusina, and there is a formal opening featuring DJ Kara Mellow at 14:00 SLT on Thursday, August 8th.
Melusina’s work is often a fine blend of detail, space and minimalism, all carefully combined and crafted to present images that are elegant in their unique focus and rich in narrative and feeling. This is perfectly reflected in the twelve images presented in this collection which – if I might be so bold as to suggest – carry with them something of a thematic link to her previous exhibition at DiXmiX, Less is More (see link above), and perhaps more particularly to her June 2017 exhibition, Absences (see Melusina’s Absences in Second Life).
As with that latter exhibition, Empty Spaces presents images that are perhaps notable for what is absent; rooms and hallways that are devoid of furnishing and décor – or, where furniture is present, it is noticeably absent signs of use; there is no-one seated on the couch or chair while the dresser appears unattended and the pool strangely sans water.
But where Absences offered a single point of focus within a room or setting – a chair, a coat hanger suspended from a hook, a ruffled bed – Empty Spaces in many respects takes a step back; while some images do offer sight of a couch or chair, a rag hanging from a hook, most offer a much broader view; the focus is far more on the room, the space the image represents, than the object or item within it.
Windows and doors, for example appear in many of the images – even those featuring a specific object – halls and open views can be seen, as at times, are hints of other spaces just out of our sight. Thus, the narrative many of these places is broader than that of Absences. What lies behind the closed door, is there something awaiting discovery around the corner of a hallway our in the spaces that lie between us and a distance doorway, hidden from our view by intervening walls? What might lie at the bottom of the empty swimming pool or beyond the opaque glass of windows, where shadows can only give hints – and perhaps deceive.
These are images that again allow us to become playwrights; we can write the stories they hint at; but so to is there the sense of something more within them. Are we looking at images that reflect the lives of others, vignettes of their times and presence-in-absence? Or are we in fact looking at spaces in which the echoes of our own times and actions might still be heard?
And this is what I continue to love and admire in Melusina’s art; through it she offers both and theme and idea that is – by the nature of her having taken the image – her own, but leaves the story behind it entirely down to us to define and tell. Thus, her exhibitions are always engaging and thought-provoking delights.
Less is More is the title of an exhibition of Second Life photography by Melusina Parkin, featured at the basement Womb exhibition space at DiXmiX Gallery and which opened on February 20th, 2018.
As an aphorism, the phrase is most readily associated with the German-America architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, regarded as one of the pioneers of 20th Century modernist architecture, although he appears to have lifted the expression from Robert Browning’s 1855 poem Andrea del Sarto (also called The Faultless Painter). Van der Rohe used the term to define a form of architecture with a minimal structural framework that could suggest free-flowing open spaces, and which could explore the relationship between people, shelter, and nature. Given Melu’s own unique approach to photography which very much encompasses the refined, minimalist use of structure balanced against the idea of natural,open space, the aphorism is an ideal title under which to exhibit some of her work.
In all, 18 photographs are displayed in the Womb’s three halls – you can find it by entering the main DiXmiX gallery and making your way to the Black Gallery, where the entrance to the Womb resides. Primarily rendered in soft tones, all of the pieces perfectly exemplify the idea of minimal structure, both in terms of framing – most of the pictures carry an intentional off-centre focus – and in terms of content – the physical structures within the images are minimally presented against a broader backdrop suggestive of open space, whether offered by open water, cloudy sky or a blank wall.
Also evident in these images, and in keeping with van der Rohe, is another of the architect’s adopted aphorisms: God is in the details. Yes, the over-arching aim of this type of photography is to present something that carries within in minimal structure and balances that structure against the use of space; however, this is something that just “happens”. It requires a measured eye and a flair for making what is actually a painstaking study of places and environments look so naturally easy.
Thus, while they might all look effortless in execution, considered study of each of them reveals the care and thought that went into bringing each of them to life. Even the way they have been paired within the three sets of images: views, interiors and bodies, should be considered; Melusina’s attention to detail is evident through this exhibition.So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t help but wonder if with some of the selected images, she’s not also offering a tip of the hat directly to van der Rohe. Looking at two of the images in Bodies (centre image of this article), I found myself thinking about his Farnsworth House design, and its original occupant, Dr. Edith Farnsworth.
Another excellent exhibition from one of my favourite artists in Second Life.
Now open at Galerie des Machines, Paris Couture and curated by Olympe (OLYMPES Rhode), is Steampunk Moods, a celebration of steampunk and Victorian technology, with a touch of ecological commentary. The exhibition features art by Gem Preiz, Melusina Parkin, Haveit Neox and Bénédicte Petiet.
“Straddling the reincarnation of the past and a certain idea of the future, Steampunk is primarily an aesthetic current of literary origin before developing on a multitude of other media,” Olympe states in the introduction to the exhibition. “A temporal paradox, it mixes centuries of fiction, Jules Verne, [Herbert] George Wells, popular culture, films, comics and other video games.” The art presented within the gallery’s halls reflects this in a most eclectic mix of 2D art spanning the virtual and the physical, and which mixes what might be termed “traditional” steampunk imagery with more familiar Victoriana and interpretations of the future.
The ground floor of the gallery features a selection of Gem Preiz’s stunning fractal art, and the first glimpse into the future. It’s well established that I’m a major admirer of Gem’s work, and the pieces selected for this exhibit reflect why. Gem’s fractal art is hugely evocative in painting visions of the future; they encompass everything from cosmology through issues of ecology and human development, touching – richly so – on concepts of architecture, design and culture.
Several of these factors are touched upon within the thirteen images presented here – but so to is a sense of mechanisation. Several of the pieces have the look and feel of great engines – or parts of engines; others seem to suggest great cogs and wheels. There are also other reflections of steampunk: hints of lenses, twists of grill work and plating that are almost decorative in look and feel – the finery that can so often be found in more delicate pieces from the era. Each image is uniquely beautiful and – literally – multi-faceted, demonstrating Gem’s multi-panel approach to his art that allow him to offer marvellously high-resolution pieces of his original art.
On the floor above Gem’s exhibit is an extensive display of in-world photography by Melusina Parkin, featuring steampunk elements found throughout Second Life, both large and small and presented in a suitably metal-walled environment. Many of the images present objects and scenes in Melu’s familiar close-up style, focusing our attention on specifics, rather than a broader scene, while still conveying an entire story to a piece. Several of them present familiar steampunk themes – powered airships: both dirigible and boat-hulled. Propellers also feature, while there are hints of Verne and Wells to be found.The models of Battersea Power Station, dating from the 1930s, might seem a little incongruous. But given it is an iconic emblem to industrial power, it is somehow fitting.
Passing through the display of Melusina’s art brings visitors to a second hall, where Haveit Neox’s contribution can be found. This takes the form of an iteration of his installation, The Miniature Goal, first seen in 2014. Within it, Haveit asks, “What if our physical world shrunk in proportion to the resources we drain from it?” As I wrote back in 2014, this is a fascinating piece; here it perhaps offers a slightly different look at steampunk. The technology of the latter is somewhat based on the consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources, consideration of the consequences are perhaps not so at odds with the core theme.
Above the floor featuring the physical world art of Bénédicte Petiet. Again, the canvas here is broader than what might be regarded as “traditional” steampunk. Like Melu, Bénédicte presents the most of his images in close-up: machines, wheels, pistons, gears, relays … all are presented here. So to are what might be considered elements from outside the realm of steampunk itself: cars from the recent past, and even street scenes. With the exception of the latter – which appear to be a mini-exhibit in their own right – the rest of the images suggest something almost “retro-futuristic”: the past we can recognise presented through a digital medium of their future.
All told, a multi-faceted exhibition, well worth exploring.