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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.