Caribbean Echoes - Artist Melanie McCollin-Walker
Strikingly atmospheric and suffused with light, Melanie McCollin-Walker's landscapes and seascapes inhabit a realm suspended somewhere between fantasy and reality.
Words by Natasha Were.
Melanie McCollin-Walker in front of Untamed and Dauntless; acrylic and mixed media on linen, 2014.
At her first solo exhibition in 2011, she hid in the kitchen, not believing anybody would show up. Describing herself as the least artistic among her school friends growing up in Barbados, she never dreamed that every one of her paintings would be sold, and that exhibition would turn what had been a hobby into a thriving, full-time career.
Four years on, she spends each day in her studio, with the music turned up loud, enjoying a one-woman painting party. Considering McCollin-Walker's carefree Caribbean upbringing, the view between the high-rise buildings of bustling Singapore, where she now lives, might seem an unlikely inspiration for her wild, open landscapes but, she reveals, she does not paint from photographs or real-life views. Instead, she takes an emotion, a reaction or a memory and works backwards from that to build up abstracted dreamscapes.
Above: Awakening; acrylic and mixed media on linen, 2014.
“I think I am quite an urban girl at heart,” she says, “but when my imagination takes me somewhere, it's never to the city. It's always to escape, to run away and be somewhere more open. And I believe that's why people respond to my paintings – because they are a window into an alternative reality.”
Her ability to capture the dramatic, emotive quality of gathering storm clouds, wind-swept seas and misty woodlands has been compared to the J.M.W. Turner, the renowned 'painter of light'. Working mainly in acrylics, she builds layers – both physical layers of paint, and layers of reality woven into layers of fantasy – to create texture, depth and a distinctive atmospheric quality. The memory of the turquoise hues of the ocean of her childhood frequently weave themselves among these layers.
Atonement; acrylic and mixed media on linen, 2011.
Because she does not paint figuratively – it's more a sense of trees, a horizon or a mountain than a clear rendition – the challenge is to breathe emotion into her canvasses. In order to preserve this magical, dream-like quality of her work, she never signs the paintings themselves (only the back) so as not to ruin the illusion of these other-worldly scenes.
Almost as intriguing as the paintings themselves are the titles she gives them. She invests a great deal of thought into each name – Here I Stand, Quiet Surrender, And He Sang As He Watched and Waited – to imbue with them with a special identity that will resonate with their eventual keepers.
Ringing In The Wind: acrylic and mixed media on linen, 2014.
A self-taught artist, McCollin-Walker compares each painting to raising a child: the challenges and the rewards create a special connection between herself and her creations, so that sending them out into the world, into the care of others, can reduce her to tears.
And yet, she says, in many ways she is merely a conduit for the art. Even while she is painting it, each work already belongs to somebody else, somebody who will connect to it emotionally, who will cherish it and ultimately add their own stories to what she has begun.
Reflecting on a Memory; acrylic and mixed media on linen, 2014.
To view more of McCollin-Walker's work visit:
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