Arts  November 2011

T J McNamara on the arts

T J McNamara is a Herald arts writer

Sludge shapes achieve horrifying brilliance


At the Warwick Henderson Gallery, Amy Melchior also uses rich colour. The subject of her work is mostly flower patterns. The basis of these patterns is encaustic, an ancient technique using melted wax. The transparency of the wax allows it to dissolve the lower layers of the painting and its malleable quality also allows her to etch lines on the surface. Each painting seems to have at least three levels of perception. The result is a charming and rich decorative quality, at its best in the flower pictures and slightly less so when skeins of forms flow in waves.

By Mark Amery 2010

It’s spring, and there’s a small rash of fertile abstraction on show around dealers in Wellington, celebrating the organic reproductive frisson of the season.

Any concern a few years back that painting might have hit a cul de sac by getting too clean and dry has been wiped away by the fresh, lively abstraction in galleries, roughening up the edges of pop and geometric abstraction.

Currently having her fourth show at South Coast Gallery in Cuba Street, Amy Melchior‘s work has come leaps and bounds with her new series ‘Going Dotty’. Spring here is a series of birthing pools with seductive rippling surfaces, full of schools of shooting spores and sprats, shoots unraveling and new cells bubbling up from the deep. The energy is intoxicating, the mood both celebratory and prickly. Melchior has developed a technique where she builds up painted encaustic layers (beeswax and resin), which is then engraved into to create a sculptural surface. Smelling of honey and robust to the touch, the work manages to speak of both the sensual fluidity and structural strength of nature. Melchior’s work is a many-layered exploration of microcosmic natural forces, the artist working to create a balance of elements in each rich slice of expressionistic matter.

The titles signal these works as about pleasure but, as with any true pleasure, there’s a darker, stickier undercurrent with scratchy forms caught within. Melchior’s biggest challenge is finding a cohesion in these compositions, which proves more difficult in some of the more sickly sweet multi-coloured works. In love with the organic structure to be found in natural chaos, her work often balances on the edge of curdling. The best are anchored by strong tensions. Works where there are strong underwater to-and-fro circular drifting motions across the surface of the deep pools. Where, just as swelling orbs are rising into view from the deep, they are pulling with them nets and other encasements.

A smaller series on show are dedicated to the habitat of the honey-bee. Some are infused with a honeyed golden light while encaustic forms and engraved marks across the surface present wild overgrown clusters of flowers and spores, their energy scattered yet unified.


Funnily, gallery programming does sometimes inadvertedly feel seasonable, with darker work popping up over winter. Next year I vote for more of this colour brightening up the greyer months.

Amy Melchior, Going Dotty, South Coast Gallery, until 2 October
By Mark Amery Courtesy of The Dominion Post

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