22nd November- 6th December, 2020, Art on View, 18 View Street Bendigo
MUGSHOTS by Melanie Thoren is a series of lino prints which explore feminine identity. The works are simultaneously satirical and thought provoking, prompting the viewer to reflect on the individual identity of each lady as they stare candidly from their porcelain homes.
The social discourse surrounding these works is pertinent in COVID times, as traditionally tea has been served at social gatherings. Now the line of the teacup on each woman’s face is invocative of the facemasks that are now mandatory in Victoria and at the time these prints were created.
23rd April-2nd May 2021, Dudley House, 60 View Street Bendigo
The concept of self-portraiture is by no means a new idea. Artists have been engaging in self-studies for many millennia. More recently, ‘selfie’ culture has perpetuated the idea that self-portraits are a narcissistic activity, laced with vanity and a self-righteous pining for attention. My view of the self-portrait is that of constant and ever-changing exploration of the self. This concerns not only external aesthetics, which of course will change over time, and the motor skills needed by the artist to create work a certain way, but also their internal view of themselves and how they choose to respond to their place in the world. The impact that the artist has on any of their work cannot be avoided: I believe that there will always be ‘you’ in your work, no matter how objectively an artist tries to portray an idea or concept.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, I set myself a challenge: to create self-portraits of all different kinds. Why? There was nothing to focus on in this period of time, nothing except for myself. As a person with anxiety this is an easy task as I often turn to internal thoughts, and this time around I tried to give a face to these thoughts. The portraits I created are all different, but at their heart they are all parts of me. I enjoy working with self-portraiture as there is no pressure to ‘impress’ a person with my view of them. I can be as brutally honest or strange as I desire. The ultimate hope is making connections to others through my depictions of myself.
My motivations for this collection also stem from my love of surrealism and feminism. Historically, women are the ones who are criticised for their work with self-portraiture as a narcissistic endeavour, and have been shamed for not appearing aesthetically gorgeous, which is why my work plays with ideas of identity and questions conventional beauty. Some of my favourite artists, including Frida Kahlo, Helene Schjerfbeck, Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke, were classically criticised for their depiction of themselves and feminine motifs, and today many viewers still consider their work to be a selfish introversion rather than a response to factors which deeply affected their lives.
I look forward to continuing with self-portraiture work over my lifetime. I can see how, over time, my techniques and ideas are constantly fluctuating and changing. It will be fascinating to see if I can create a Narcissus Herself: Part 2 exhibition in around 10 years’ time and see if my work remains relevant or becomes some foreign idea from a memory long passed.
THE END IS NIGH
in.cube8r Gallery and Emporium, 321 Smith Street, Fitzroy
6th-19th October 2022
This exhibition is a collection of pieces created by Melanie Thoren which explore ideas surrounding femininity and apocalyptic paranoia.
Melanie first got the idea for this show at the start of this year, when we were confronted with images coming from Ukraine of refugees and the carnage of modern warfare. Melanie asked close friends to pose for ‘apocalypse portraits’ for inspiration, asking them what their apocalypse outfit would be if they had only to choose things from their house. These images served as the basis for many of the artworks created for this exhibition. Research into historical images also informed these ideas, particularly those that show scientific advances and the paranoia surrounding surveillance prominent in the 1960’s. This was an era where technology was starting to reflect the overzealous ambition of man, particularly with the ‘Space Race’ between Russia and America. Bringing this perspective back to femininity, Melanie explores the loss of the feminine perspective in matters regarding technology, and the priorities directed at women - such as prioritising the evolution of beauty standards, rather than tending to survival. Melanie draws inspiration from artists such as Jeffrey Smart, Barbara Hanrahan, Hannah Wilke, Frida Kahlo and Maria Lassnig.
Using a combination of mediums such as acrylic paint, watercolour and printmaking, Melanie has strived to represent a feminine perspective of the future, inspired by events of the past. Melanie also researched art styles surrounding retro futurism and pulp fiction, which can be seen in the narrative of each artwork.