Melusina’s Lockdown and Hope in Second Life

Melusina Parkin: Lockdown and Hope

Melusina Parkin opened her latest exhibition in Second Life Life on Thursday, January 14th at the Kondor Art Centre’s White Gallery.

Lockdown and Hope is a highly topical selection of art by Melu that takes as a part of its theme  – as the name implies – something that remains on a lot of people’s minds as we roll on into 2021: the situation around the continuing threat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus / COVID-19, and the continuing grind, for so many of us, of being in a lockdown situation that brings limited opportunities to get out, interact with others or do the things we really want to do.

Melusina Parkin: Hope (v) 4 and Hope (v) 5

However, rather than focus just on the negative, Lockdown and Hope also looks to the future and the time beyond the shadow of the virus, when we can all resume largely “normal” lives with their attendant freedoms and activities as the various vaccines spread amongst populations,  allowing us to, if not eradicate COVID-19 entirely, then at least bring it under control and diminish it’s threat.

On the surface, this is an exhibition of two halves: on the lower floor are 18 images that carry the title “Lockdown”, and very much focus on the impositions that have been placed on us as a result of the pandemic situation. Their dominant themes  intertwine feelings loneliness, listlessness, boredom, the need for escape, and / or being cut off from the world. These are presented in Melu’s captivating style of focusing down on just a portion of a scene. It’s a technique I’ve long admired, simply because captured in this way, her images offer the opening lines of a story, leaving our minds to tell the rest based on the title of the exhibition and the point of focus in the image.

Melusina Parkin: Lockdown (v) 3 and Lockdown (v) 4

Take Lockdown (v) 16, as an example (seen in the foreground at the top of this piece). With its focus on the handle of a door, and the shadow on a distant wall cast by the light falling through a window, we’re given an image that clearly speaks to being shut-in. The door, so long a means of keeping others out so we can enjoy our own company, now a barrier to our ability to go out, the door handle caught in sunlight now a forbidden thing, the patterned shadow of an unseen window the calling of a world currently beyond our reach.

On the upper floor is a further set of 18 images that express the idea of Hope: that those freedoms we are temporarily without will return; that we will once again be able travel, to share, to appreciate nature, to enjoy a vacation on some remote shore and or enjoy the simple pleasures of walks along the coast or country roads. In contrast to those on the lower floor, these are offered as more expansive images – open spaces, broad skies, distant horizons – all of which are emblematic of freedom and the ability to roam where we will, and partake of all that life has to offer.

Melusina Parkin: Hope (v) 13 and Hope (v) 14

But there is more here as well; within many of the images on the lower floor offer not only representations of the isolation of lockdown, but also a glimmer of hope for the future. Again, to take Lockdown (v) 16. Whilst standing as a symbol of the need for us to stay isolated from those beyond our immediate bubble (if indeed, we have a bubble), it also offers hope: the very fact that sunlight is falling on the door handle suggests that the day will come when we can again open our doors to others and invite them in without fear, or pass through the door into the world beyond that is promised in the shadow falling on the wall beyond the door; indeed, the very fact that the door stands ajar suggests that time might actually be not that far away.

Elsewhere, Lockdown (v) 9 offers us a view of again being cut off from the things we would normally take for granted – cars parked outside the window with their promise of taking us anywhere we might desire, but for now beyond our reach. However, it also reminds us that despite all the impositions of lockdown, the cars are still there, waiting, and one day we’ll be free to travel wherever we would. Meanwhile,

Melusina Parkin: Lockdown (v) 8 and Lockdown (v) 9

This double focus can also be found in several of the images upstairs. Take Hope (v) 13 and Hope (v) 14 for example. Both offer use the promise of freedoms to be joyed – whilst the presence of the fences, open as one is and as relatively unobtrusive as the other might be in allowing us to see the sky, reminds us that the freedoms we’ll soon resume are not quite here yet, and restraint of action is still required.

From gowns cast across furniture out of possible frustration at being unable to wear them in public to the promise that nights out will yet return (Lockdown (v) 10) to a look towards a time when walks along sandy shores or country roads will again be ours to enjoy, but which is not yet upon us – hence the empty chair and bench Hope (v) 12 and Hope (v) 15); and with tales of separation and togetherness bound within the simple framing of a teapot, cups, decorative hearts and the placement of two chairs (Lockdown (v) 4). All 36 images within Lockdown and Hope have a richness of narrative, marking this as another extraordinary and engaging exhibition from Melusina Parkin.

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Just Melusina in Second Life

Melusina Parkin: Just Melusina
I’m not familiar with portraits; objects, details or landscapes are my favourite subjects. I’m not aware of the many secrets one needs to know to catch expressions, feelings or bias in a body or in a face. But sometimes I try that. It’s when a place, a dress, a pose, suggests an atmosphere or meaningful emotion.

– Melusina Parkin

These are the disarming words Melusina Parkin uses to introduce her latest series of images, Just Melusina, an enticing set of 34 self-portrait / avatar studies that are uniquely Melusina in appearance, tone and style that fully underline her use of atmosphere and emotion – and demonstrate she indeed has an eye for pose and look.

“Traditional” portraits tend to exercises in power and / or ego, however subliminal. The subject and their pose is what counts, the clothes they wear, the backdrop to their sitting, etc., are all merely accoutrements to the central theme of look at ME. Even self-portraiture can follow a similar route, although they can also lean the other way, projecting too much of the artist’s own self-reflection in a piece, although the end result is the same: to push their audience into a single track of emotional response.

Melusina Parkin: Just Melusina

Within avatar studies, ego can also play a role – who doesn’t want to have their avatar looking its stunning best? – but leaving aside things like Profile photos and personal shots, avatar studies within SL tend to focus on narrative: telling a story in a single frame. But often, rather than allowing the image to speak for itself, the artist will directly lead their audience into an interpretation of a piece through the use of an intentionally descriptive title that sets the foundation of what they are trying to convey. There’s actually nothing wrong with this where the story is the intent, but where the interpretation might otherwise be broader, it can focus too much on generating the primary response rather than – as with the likes of landscape images – allowing the audience to take in the whole and allow their thoughts and reaction to be more freely driven by what they see and perceive.

This is where the 34 images found within Just Melusina differ from the more “usual” forms of avatar study. While each and every one has obviously been posed, none are titled by anything other than by a number), so there is no leading by the hand when it comes to interpretation. The result is that what we see within each image is entirely a matter of our owner observation and emotional response – and this is broadened by Melusina’s skill in lightly (and sometimes indirectly) touching on smaller specifics within an image, as well as in using dress, poise and camera angle, to offer the way to larger stories our imagination might frame.

Melusina Parkin: Just Melusina

Take Just Melusina 34, for example (above). In a muted, soft-focus monochrome, it presents a woman sitting, perhaps curled with her knees up, on a sofa of some description.  But is she at home or some public place? Just the hint of the chair is sitting on suggests a sofa, but could it be a vinyl-covered bench seat in public place that she has chosen to make her own. And is she alone or with someone? The turn of her eyes could suggest either; is she looking at someone whilst listening to them? If so who? A friend? A lover? A stranger? And if so, what does the neutral set to her expression suggest? Or has something outside of the frame attracted her attention? Is it something she is witnessing outside of wherever she is and seen through a window? Or is it closer, within the space she occupies, but not something with which she is directly involved? Or is she just lost within her own thoughts, unaware of either the sideways glance or the expression on her face? If so, what might be the thoughts she is lost within?

Thus, through each image, Melusina beautifully and lightly sets a scene – not an entire narrative, and certainly not a shout of “look at me!” – abut a scene. One in which we are invited to step and allow our eyes and emotions construct the narrative beneath.

And there’s more besides. Whilst all of these images open a veritable storybook of possible narratives to hold our attention, so too do some have other aspects to them. There are those that seem to have a more playful edge to them as they offer hints of other mediums – such as a possible call to Liza Minnelli in Cabaret or Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Others meanwhile, seem to offer hints of famous works to be found in the physical world – Just Melusina #17, with the use of pose and hair colour might be seen to offer an echo of Whistler’s Mother without actually ever being a direct take on it, but remaining true to itself.

Melusina Parkin: Just Melusina

Wonderful in scope and depth, this is another superb collection from Melu, and I hope you’ll take the time to see it.

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Melu’s Roadside images in Second Life

Melusina Parkin: Roadside

Currently open at Melusina Parkin’s gallery is Roadside, her latest collection of images taken from around Second Life, which will continue through May and June. Presented in Melu’s familiar and captivating close-up style, they present a series of pictures with a theme of road trips – but with a very specific focus, as she explains in the introduction to the exhibition:

Diners, motels, pump stations, garages are elements of a “road popular culture” developed in wide spaces crossed by monotone and endless roads. We can’t imagine a motorway without them.

Like mountains, hills, fields, lawns and rivers, they are part of any landscape we see when travelling through the country.

– Melusina Parkin

Melusina Parkin: Roadside

So it is that we have a series of images of motel signs, petrol (gas) stations and pumps, parked vehicles, wooden walls of motel cabins and more, each one offering a unique take on the idea of the Great American Road Trip. Within them are many of the icons of that tradition – the coupé with its top down, the ribbon of dead-straight road vanishing into the distance, the metal-sized roadside diner, the pannier-laden motorbike, and so on. However, they are presented in such a way that rather than simply offering a scene for us to appreciate, Melu once again frames them in a manner that invites a story.

Take Roadside 3, for example: a battered yellow coupé sits parked in the foreground, inviting us to consider it: it’s condition, who might own it, where might they be going, and so on. Then, beyond it and through partially shaded windows, we can see the familiar bright red vinyl seating of a diner – something that always inspires a feeling of warmth and comfort, and our thoughts are similarly comforted with ideas of good food and rest in a friendly environment, whilst also broadening the story of the owners of the car: what might they be eating, what conversations are going on at their table, and so on.

Melusina Parkin: Roadside

Similarly, Roadside 5, with the motorcycle parked before petrol (gas) pumps immediately spins out thoughts of the freedom of riding the open road through to (perhaps) thoughts of iconic road trip films like Easy Rider. And so it goes on around the four walls of the gallery space (a single room at the top of her store).

There is perhaps a wider context for this exhibit as well. June will mark Second Life’s 17th anniversary with the familiar Second Life Birthday celebrations taking place. The theme for this year’s event, the theme is road trips and vacations, so Melusina’s Roadside might be said to offer a lead-in to the celebrations.

Melusina Parkin: Roadside

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Listening to the Silence in Second Life

Kultivate Signature Gallery: Melusina Parkin, Listening to the Silence

Kultivate Magazine and Gallery premier a new exhibition space on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 with the opening of the Kultivate Signature Gallery, a new 3-storey hall that will provide exhibitions by established Second Life artists. for its opening exhibition, it features the work of Melusina Parkin.

Melu, whose work stands as one of my featured artists in this blog, has an exquisite balance in her photography, 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 apparent with Listening to the Silence, as presented at the Signature Gallery.

In writing about the exhibition, Mule notes:

Sounds and words fill the world up. Nature talks by wind whistling, waves lapping, animal sounds; humans speak, cities talk by signs. Silence is rare and it’s never absolute. It’s a gem we have to keep carefully. Silence allows us seeing the world without the distractions caused by the sounds and seeing more clearly our interior worlds.

Kultivate Signature Gallery: Melusina Parkin, Listening to the Silence

And so it is that with Listening to the Silence, we are presented with a series of signature Melusina Parkin views of Second Life. No, not “views”, but “portraits”; Melu’s work so uniquely captures the virtual world in which we spend so much time, that each piece genuinely presents a sense of a living, breathing entity, one in which the presence of avatars would actually reduce that sense of life within it, rather than enhance it.

This is a collection of images that offer something of a continuation / reflection of ideas witnessed in past exhibitions such as Empty Spaces and Night Walks. In this selection, we are presented with views into deserted rooms, along empty streets, and over lonely waters. Each piece is haunting in its singular beauty – but we’re not being asked to just look at them, but to hear their very sounds of silence, again as Melu notes:

A photograph doesn’t produce sounds, although it can suggest them; so we can observe things just imagining their noise or appreciating their quietness. Images stop any movement, then they stop any sound as well. Silent images – images of silent things – are closely related to a sense of loneliness and of absence; we can multiply the meanings we give them.

Kultivate Signature Gallery: Melusina Parkin, Listening to the Silence

In pointing us towards this consideration of the absent sounds within photographs, Melu is opening a much broader door to how our imaginations might otherwise create the narrative to accompany each piece. However, there is perhaps something more to this exhibition; something perhaps unintended when conceived (or perhaps not, I’ve no idea as I’ve not spoken directly on the exhibit), but utterly prevalent to the global situation the is unfolding before all of us.

The spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has seen cities forced into lockdown, travel restrictions enforced, and general warnings for people not to gather in groups and to remain home / work from home wherever possible. The result has been a strange emptying of streets and places – perhaps not to the extent witnessed with Melu’s images, but still very evident. Thus, her pieces within this exhibition might be seen as presenting a silent echo of what we’re seeing world-wide in the physical world. In doing so, they offer a very different voice, a reminder of the chorus of sounds that accompany our daily lives that, if not entirely silenced, has been quelled.

So it is that Listening to the Silence can be seen as a richly layered exhibition, one with the power to not only engage us in reflections about how we perceive the digital world where we spend or time or on how sounds affect our daily living; but also the potential for the world that we regard as ours and familiar, to still present us with a collective threat and challenge.

Kultivate Signature Gallery: Melusina Parkin, Listening to the Silence

Listening to he Silence formally opens at 13:00 SLt on Tuesday, March 17th, with music by live performers Parker Static and SaraMarie Philly (14:00 SLT).

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Melusina’s Cars in Second Life

Melusina Parkin – Cars

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.

Melusina Parkin – Cars

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.

Melusina Parkin – Cars

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.

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Crossing Over and Night Walks in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over and Night Walks

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.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over

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.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Crossing Over

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.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

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.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

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).

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Night Walks

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.

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