Melanie Johnson – USA and Islwyn Thorne – Wales

Melanie Johnson

Drawing is a vehicle, here used as a medium to construct stories and as a forum to exercise the physical process of finding those stories. The work is representational—it is easy to discern what is being depicted. As such, the drawings convey to the viewer recognizable imagery, and there is immediacy in that recognition. Each drawing is also a record of the history inherent in its own manifestation. In a very basic sense, it is a record of the act of looking, of touching, and of constructing meaning through relating one mark or image to another over a period – a physical testament to the passage of time and a series of visual decisions. Melanie is interested in the simultaneous read of an immediately recognizable image that asks the viewer to linger over a history and meaning that unfold more slowly.

Melanie navigates this territory intuitively when working, seeking to arrive at an image that is both unflinchingly candid in physical representation and yet psychologically evasive. Residual buildup of the physical mark is suggestive of the indexical process of investigation and also serves as a metaphor for accumulation of time, thought, and clutter. Mark, line and material also become an extension of touch in the act of representation. The relationship of hand to subject, negotiated through the material, can elicit a response of both haptic empathy and repulsion.

Narrative is employed loosely here. The imagery gives form to a dissonant accrual of lived experience, family histories, anecdote, internal conflicts and dilemmas, daydreams, gleanings, personal and appropriated iconography, the acting out of roles both obligatory and imagined, and fragments of carefully observed and also carelessly abandoned domestic detritus. Rather than explicit tales, the drawings seek to conjure a habitat that has one foot in reality and the other in a hazy internal state that evokes the slipperiness of memory, longing, and a disquieting curiosity—about an object, a body, an unexpected relationship, or a state of being. Time and meaning unfurl in the lack of activity and there is an inhabited comfort and resignation to the state of things.

Melanie will spend two weeks at Maelor, dividing her time between making a new large scale drawing and preparatory studies in the studio and finding the source material for this and future drawings through exploring the environment. Much of the fodder for Melanie work is derived from personal experiences and histories. Recently she discovered that two branches of her family immigrated to the United States from North Wales. She is interested in exploring contemporary Welsh landscape and culture while at the same time projecting her imagination of the past onto this setting.

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Islwyn Thorne

Since retiring from the classroom, Islwyn has devoted himself to observational drawing and painting in various contexts. His subject matter has ranged from the familiar, such as quick gestures of a regular pub crowd, to time-consuming renderings of the classically beautiful Greek and Italian sculptures. He is particularly interested in the manner in which careful observation lends meaning to the sometimes overlooked. Drawing tends to relate this experience by highlighting aspects of the subject depicted and by suggesting the manner of looking, be it careful consideration or fleeting essential impressions. While his drawing endeavours have taken him near and far geographically, he has not yet considered his native surroundings as source material. The dramatic and light-filled mountains of Snowdonia, right on his doorstep, offer an ideal resource, which he feels would be challenging and worthwhile. Islwyn hopes to produce a number of small landscapes while hiking around the area, as well as impressions of the local life. Further work in the studio would flow from these.