Janet Melrose RSW: Earthworks
'A man's work is nothing but a slow trek to discover through the detour of art those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.' Albert Camus
Working from her studio on the banks of the River Earn in Perthshire, Janet Melrose RSW has looked to her local landscape to create a series of abstract watercolour paintings, characterised by an intuitive, whimsical approach to mark making. During long walks in the countryside, Melrose collects objects and makes notes before returning to paint in her studio, where she seeks connections between what she has collected and what she has seen.
Whilst the landscape and animals that previously inhabited her paintings still inform the work, this exhibition shows Melrose’s style to have gained a new lyricism by embracing abstraction. Lines and arrows are used to describe flight paths and movements of animals whilst branches of leafless trees seem to extend into sprawling bird nests, as if seen in dreams of winter walks in forests. The meandering branches and paths of Melrose’s paintings all point towards the earth and its cycles through abundance and scarcity. Symbols gleaned from Neolithic and Bronze Age burial sites, often hidden in the midst of gathered branches, speak of fertility and fecundity in nature. Melrose’s paintings show nature to be a sacred space, full of connections in lifecycles and timelines that interweave and eventually fracture.
Speaking about the premise of the exhibition, Melrose has said: ‘landscapes are not about looking towards a horizon. They are about looking down at the earth and inward into self. Both coexist and one informs the other. Ideas, memories and loosely held thoughts are brought together as an inscape to make visible what lies within and without.’
Melrose studied Fine Art Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art under John Busby RSA RSW and William Baillie CBE PPRSA PPRSW, graduating in 1987. She has exhibited extensively in Scotland, London and New York. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Society of Scottish Watercolourists, the Scottish Society of Artists and Visual Arts Scotland. It is held by collections including Flemings Bank Holdings, the Bonham Hotel, Royal Air Force, the Lints Partnership SSC and the Festival Fringe Society.
I wrote this while I was making the work for the show. I very rarely put pen to paper but this just seemed to appear and indeed make visible the ideas I was having at the time. Through making this work I have rediscovered some early interests of mine as I trudged across hills to view archaeological sites; Neolithic and Bronze Age burial sites and read about the finding of grave goods carefully selected and placed within the henge, which slowly filtered into my work.
Within this space
This sacred space
Quartz, lines upon a rock,
Within, without, withheld,
Wind blown ....sound of
Light, pale yellow,
Earth to Heaven,
Heaven to Earth,