Melusina’s Empty Spaces in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Empty Spaces

Melusina Parkin makes a return to DiXmiX Gallery about a year to the date after her latest exhibition there (see Melusina’s Minimalism in Second Life), to present Empty Spaces, this time in the gallery’s Black exhibition hall.

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).

DiXmiX Gallery: Empty Spaces

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.

DiXmiX Gallery: Empty Spaces

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?

DiXmiX Gallery: Empty Spaces

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.

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Melusina’s minimalism in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Melusina Parkin

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. 

DiXmiX Gallery: Melusina Parkin

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.

DiXmiX Gallery: Melusina Parkin

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.

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Steampunk Moods in Second Life

Steampunk Modes: Gem Preiz

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.

Steampunk Modes: Melusina Parkin

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.

Steampunk Moods: Haveit Neox

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.

Steampunk Modes: Bénédicte Petiet

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.

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Melusina’s Mysteries in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

Melusina Parkin returns to the Nitroglobus Roof Gallery for October, with an exhibition called Mysteries, and it is a thought-provoking display of photography.

“Missing faces, veiled ones, obscure looks,” Melusina states in introducing the exhibition. “Statues and mannequins populate Second Life with their mysterious mood. Sometimes they are creepy, sometimes they are gentle, always they are silent.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

Thus, Mysteries presents thirteen images of mannequins, figures and statues captured from around Second Life. Such figures, to be found all over the grid, whether in stores or art events, parks or role-play regions, homes or photography studios, all have some kind of story to tell – be it part of a larger setting or contained within the frame of their own display as a work of art or object of everyday use.

So to, through Melusina’s collection, do they tell a story or stories within this exhibition. The images have clearly been selected with care to project this, Mystery 10 through Mystery 13, for example, are displayed together on two walls, presenting an unfolding narrative – although what that narrative might be is up to each of us as we view the images. Others, such as Mystery 7 perhaps tell a story quite independently of the other pieces in the collection. But however one looks at them, the stories are there, individual or collected, waiting to be heard.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

But there is more here as well, if we’re willing to look a little deeper. Our avatars are, in a sense, our own mannequins. Through them, we get to decide not only how we interact with one another, but how we actually appear to one another. We can project – or inhabit – our avatars at will, using them to reveal or hide, project or protect, many different facets of who we are. They are both a window into who we are and a shield by which we can hide the things we do not wish to have seen. Mystery 2 and Mystery 3 perhaps embody this most specifically.

So as Melusina states, Mysteries may present an apparently lifeless population – but in doing so, it makes us wonder about human feelings and thoughts – and particularly, perhaps about our own feeling and thoughts, about our identity, relationship with others,  and our openness.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Mysteries

Mysteries is another nuanced, fascinating exhibition from Melusina; and yet another not to be missed.

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Melusina’s Absences in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Absences

“Absence,” Melusina Parkin states in introducing her exhibition, Absences, at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, “is a negative concept: it means that something should be there and it doesn’t. So, when we look at an empty place – a room, a seashore, a road or even a chair – we can’t avoid thinking of something or somebody who has been or will be there. That’s even more true when a world, including nature and landscape, is entirely made by humans, like Second Life.”

Absences is a set of twelve images on this theme, presented in Melusina’s familiar approach of offering a macro-like study, each scene a single point of focus – a beginning, not an entire story. Rather than the entire room, we are instead given an empty hanger on a hook, deserted chairs at a table, a glimpse of an empty couch facing windows without a landscape, the rumpled sheets on one side of the vacated bed, and so on. All suggest a story, of a presence lost but still felt; of  time when two were once one, but now only the one remains, the observer, the keeper of memories.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Absences

But are the absences we see permanent – the result of the ending of a relationship or the passing of someone close to us? Or are they temporary –  the absence felt when a lover is away for an extended period, or who has just departed for a time and with the promise of reunion in the future? Or are they the absence created by changing circumstances – the empty room symbolic of possessions packed and gone, in transit to a new home while we remain, recalling all that has happened in the now deserted spaces – and the promise of new beginnings when next we see those possessions in their new home?

“I’m not completely aware of these thoughts when I take a photograph,” Melusina notes. “But when a detail, a colour shade, a light catches my eye and pushes me to freeze it in a photo, I think it happens ’cause they suggest me an atmosphere that any word, any human presence could better express.”

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Absences

And here is where the power of these pieces resides. Because they are each so focused, so macro in content, there is no sense  that we are being particularly directed to view any of them one way or another. Instead, each is but an opening word or line, awaiting its story to be told.

In this, we become not so much observers of each image, but playwrights, sharing each canvas with Melusina, writing stories of ending and beginnings unique to each of us, filling the page she offers us through each image. Because, and as she notes, the blank page holds so much more power than the sheet upon which words have already been written. And so these images, as evocative as they are, are made even more meaningful to each of us through our involvement in the narratives that flow from them.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Absences

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A World of Details in Second Life

Melusina Parkin – World of Details

“Although I love landscapes and broad views, my photographer’s eye needs to go close the things,” Melusina Parkin says of he recently opened exhibition World of Details. “Maybe I got impressed forever by the words said by Mies Van De Rohe – one of my favourite Masters of 20th Century aesthetics – ‘God is in the detail’.”

And so it is that we are led on a journey of fine detail through more than thirty images arranged around the split-level floor at Delmonico’s Artspace, where Melusina once again reveals that she truly does have an eye for detail and composition. In some respects, A World of Details shares a heritage with Closer Looks, and exhibition I reviewed in May 2014. As with that exhibition, the pieces here focus on the smaller details of a scene: instead of an entire workspace, we have a single typewriter or sewing machine; rather than the street, we have the street sign. Thus, common everyday things we might otherwise  never notice or which we take for granted are presented in a new light.

Melusina Parkin – World of Details

“Isolating a detail is an exercise of cleansing for our mind;” Melusina states. “It means to concentrate attention on a piece of reality,  until it loses its relationship with the environment and reveals its own meaning (or its own triviality). Then, we have to rebuild the context and to insert the detail into. These operations – made by our eye, that is: by our mind – can make true what Bertolt Brecht says in The Exception and the Rule: ‘We ask you expressly to discover that what happens all the time is not natural. For to say that something is natural […] is to regard it as unchangeable’.

She continues, “Moreover, attention to details can take us to the awareness that beauty and meanings aren’t compellingly in elaborated and sophisticated things, but they’re common and widespread.  I try to enhance all that by shooting everything I notice when I look close at anything. Sometimes I subtract or add light or colours, sometimes I isolate things deleting parts of their environment. Point of view, light and cut-off can enhance the subjects’ power of suggesting something.”

Melusina Parkin – World of Details

The majority of the pieces on display are new in terms of being exhibited; something which again helps with the feeling that World of Details and Closer Looks share a common bond. What is remark is – as noted above – the way in which the ordinary, the trivial, the things we regard as serving a physical function in life, become in and of themselves, art. The framing, colour palette, angle and focal point within each; the way each – as Melusina notes – offers a visual metonymy of a larger scene or of someone’s life.

Study is warranted, because each image reveals more than might at first be thought; as Melusina says, “All of them tell us something about their creators. All of them are both actors and silent spectators of the play we call ‘our life'”.

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