Almost two years ago, Melusina Parkin presented her first collection of avatar-centric images. Just Melusina was very much an experimental collection; as Melu noted herself at the time, portraiture and taking images of her avatar were entirely outside of her focus (no pun intended), her work to that point being largely directed towards landscapes, architecture and design.
However, Melu is a uniquely gifted artist; she has the ability to identify angle, eye line, subject and focus to present intriguing picture in which it is possible to define a single line of narrative or dialogue that naturally leads one to perceive a story far broader than the canvas, and which at the same time can draw us along subtle lines of thinking. In bringing these techniques and approach to portraiture, Melu presented series of self-studies which, while obviously set and posed, were nonetheless utterly natural in style and tone, and completely captivating in their potential to tell stories – as I wrote at the time.
Now, two years on, Melusina has returned to the subject of self studies with Fading Melu, a collection of images centred on her avatar and with the same rich potential for weaving stories – but which are very different in tone and approach; something she set out intentionally achieve, as she noted to me as we discussed the collection just ahead of its September 10th, 2022 opening.
Comprising some 23 pieces Fading Melu offers portraits which are linked by three major elements: they are mostly set against a dark background; they carry a sense of being over-exposed; they utilise a depth of field that ensures both subject and backdrop (where visible) are intentionally out-of-focus.
This latter point might sound counter-intuitive; sure, depth-of-field can be used in many ways – most obviously by “fading out” a backdrop / the “less important” and either focusing the eye on the foreground subject or the specific element within an image that caught the photographer’s eye; but to blur the entire image, subject and all? After all, and as I noted in writing about Just Melusina:
“Traditional” portraits tend to be 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 [so] the end result tends to be the same: to push their audience into a single track of emotional response.
Thus, in blurring each image within Fading Melu, Melusina is literally blurring how these portraits might be perceived, and so potentially making their narrative harder to define.
But in doing so, Fading Melu – to me – achieves two goals. First, because subject and background are both equally out-of-focus, we cannot so easily discern what may have driven the thinking behind each one’s composition and presentation. Thus interpreting them becomes much deeper and more personal, our reactions formed more by our own outlook and perception rather than any subtle hints in direction presented by the artist.
Second, Fading Melu might be said to offer a commentary on the human / avatar relationship. Our involvement in Second Life brings with it a certain investment in our avatars; for some, this can be superficial in terms of how our “real lives” permeate our avatar in terms of looks, behaviour, etc; for others the investment can run very deep. Either way, the fact remains that no matter how we try, we can never fully inhabit our avatars; there is always something of a divide between avatar and self. Thus, through their intentional out-of-focus finish, these are pieces that might be seen as offering a subtle underlining of this entire “me / not me” dichotomy.
Thus, within Fading Melu we have another multi-faceted collection of images capable of stirring the grey matter, and which serve as a superb expansion and enhancing of ideas first seen within 2020’s Just Melusina.
- Melusina Parkin – Fading Melu (Time Portal, rated General)