photo credit: Melanie de Ruyter

While working on the multiple layers and intricate details required to complete her meticulously rendered landscape paintings, Hobart-based artist Melanie McCollin-Walker listens to audio books and podcasts. A self-confessed escapist, her genres of choice are science-fiction and fantasy. At first, this seems surprising and a stark contrast to the high realism of her painting style. However, with further reflection, it becomes clear there is a significant connection between McCollin-Walker’s favoured listening companions and how she chooses to depict the landscape. 

 

When speaking about the images she creates, McCollin-Walker likens them to portals to other worlds, a window to somewhere else. Uninhabited by humans, they invite us to imagine places beyond our everyday reality, to revel in the mystery of the natural world. When choosing her subjects, McCollin-Walker favours mist covered waterways and dense forests, places steeped in the reservoirs of memory and all that has gone before. Approaching her paintings as evocations of emotion, McCollin-Walker’s work does not encapsulate the traditional postcard view of glorious mountains and crystalline lakes, but the flickering glimpses caught out of the corner of our eye and the feelings left long after they pass. 

 

One of the most striking features of McCollin-Walker’s paintings is their innate ability to draw the eye deep into the central point of the image. An off-centre river or meandering body of water often beckons us to look closer, leading us further into the picture plane. Light filled clouds boiling with energy overhead are reflected in the still water below and flanked by an ever-encroaching forest. Through masterfully applied layers of darkness and light, McCollin-Walker persuades us into the landscape, guiding the viewer into unknown places possessing an elusive mystery that can only be filled by our imagination. 

 

Throughout her creative practice, McCollin-Walker has gleaned much inspiration from British painter J.M.W. Turner. While in London at the close of 2019, McCollin-Walker visited Tate Britain to view a collection of the 19th century artist’s work. Captivated by the consistency of detail in Turner’s canvases, she draws attention to his expert use of colour and texture to depict light and shadow, where every stroke of paint on the canvas, whether structured or loose, is a considered choice. In The Light Within, McCollin-Walker pushes her own experimentations with light and shadow into additional realms in a series of charcoal drawings featuring generous expanses of negative white space coupled with the dense shadows of heavily wooded riverbanks. 

 

Many of the paintings are based on landscapes found in Tasmania, where McCollin-Walker has lived – by way of Barbados, London and Singapore – for the past several years. Of particular influence is the Forth River, a lengthy waterway winding its way down from the lush, green pastures of north-west Tasmania to the snow-capped highlands of the Central Plateau. Driving near its banks on a recent trip to the dolerite peaks of Cradle Mountain, McCollin-Walker was struck by how the river seemed to go on for miles, flowing deeper and deeper into ancient forests and mountains. Looking into McCollin-Walker’s new paintings feels much the same way - like glimpses into a world both familiar and strange, they offer us a moment to escape into the quiet majesty of uncharted territory. 

essay by Briony Downes

selected solo exhibitions

 

2022     New Works, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne

2021.    New Works, Handmark Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania

2020     The Light Within, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2019     The River Lies Within, Handmark Gallery, Tasmania
2018     Adrift, Studio Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre, Tasmania
2018     First Impressions, Salamanca Arts Centre, Tasmania
2017     The View From Here, Art Atrium, Sydney
2017     On The Edge, Australian High Commission, Singapore
2015     Inner Storm, Depot II Gallery, Sydney
2014     Dreamscapes, Salamanca Arts Centre,Tasmania
2012     Limited Edition, Australasian Arts Projects, Singapore
2011     Before the Beginning, Australasian Arts Project, Singapore

 

 

 

selected group exhibitions

 

2020     Paperless, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne

2019     Summer Salon, Handmark Gallery, Tasmania
2018     Celebrating Our Landscape, Handmark Gallery, Tasmania
2017     At Bull Bay, Despard Gallery, Tasmania
2016     Summer Sojourn , Art Atrium, Sydney
2016     Cliftons Art Prize Finalist Exhibition, Cliftons Venue, Singapore
2015     Benetton Foundation, Venice Biennale, Italy
2014     Asia Contemporary Art Show, Hong Kong
2013     Loaded, Atrium Gallery, Australian High Commission, Singapore
2013     Cliftons Art Prize Finalist Exhibition, Cliftons Venue Singapore
2013     Grounded, Australian High Commission, Singapore
2012     Just This Moment, Australasian Arts Projects, Singapore

 

 

awards

 

2016    Finalist - Cliftons Art Prize, Singapore

2013    Finalist - Art Prizes Australia

2013    People’s Choice Winner - Cliftons Art Prize, Singapore 

2013    Finalist - Cliftons Art Prize, Singapore

 

 

selected residencies

 

2018    Salamanca Arts Centre, Tasmania 

2017    Bull Bay Artist Residency, Bruny Island, Tasmania

2014    Salamanca Arts Centre, Tasmania

 

 

collections

 

2017     Bruce Gosper, Australian High Commissioner to Singapore, private collection
2016     Guacoland Project, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore
2016     Wild Honey, The Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur
2015     IQ Global Group, Sydney
2015     The Luciano Benetton Foundation’s ‘Imago Mundi’, Italy
2014     Telunas Resorts, Indonesia
2014     Wild Honey, Mandarin Gallery, Singapore

 

 

artist talks

2017       On The Edge, in conversation with curator Anna Layard, Singapore
2013       Loaded, artist dinner, hosted by the Australian High Commissioner, Singapore

 

 

selected media

 

2019      WIN News, Hobart
2019      Tassie Lights Up Artist Inspiration, The Mercury
2018      TasWeekender, The Mercury
2015      Caribbean Echoes, Real Life Magazine
2014      Island Home Sparks Inspiration, The Mercury
2014      Nomadic Wonders, The Finder

 © 2020 Melanie McCollin-Walker, All Rights Reserved

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