Dean Melbourne interview

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How does your process begin when planning your paintings?

I cant say I plan paintings. I kind of brew them in my head. I am always putting ingredients in there. Books, movies, news stories, research. I don’t know how they will find there way into paintings; I am just interested in learning.

Then there is a gestation period. Its just time really waiting until I feel like there is something solid enough to go at. Even when I have started there are periods of just waiting for things to fall into place. I make false starts when I try to rush. I try and not paint in a prescriptive style. It gets tempting to show off sometimes but its not about making a slick visual thing its about making something authentic.

Then I just try things out. I sometimes draw, sometimes play with images in photoshop and then I sit in the dark and try projecting images to see how they scale up.

Seeing them in this way helps me see what the opportunity to edit, select and transform really is. I cant always tell when images are small. The images even when I have played around with them only make a start. They never go where I expect.

Do you always use the same medium?

Not always but I have had a period of being a bit more disciplined about working through a consistent process. Oils on paper seems to work for me and my subject. They can have a translucence like watercolour at times, which I like and then can have solidity when required. I like the balance and the result are paintings that seem to fall between norms.

You currently have a painting called the Thaumaturgist in our veiled Voyages show. Tell us about the title and how the painting evolved?

Thaumaturgy is the ability of saints to perform miracles. In Islam the phrase “Tay al-Ard” or Folding the World describes the ability to teleport by folding two points of the world together and stepping through.

I discovered this idea when I was researching around the idea of a shaman or a magician to feature in another painting. I already had a painting of this character that seemed to fit and these ideas seemed to knit together

The painting actually evolved out of a desire to reference my enjoyment of wild swimming. I found an image of a wild swimmer stood in a fallen tree. I had all this stuff in my head and it found its way into the picture form that start.

What was the last exhibition you visited and did it make an impact on your work?

The last exhibition that I saw and had a major impact was Graham Sutherland at Oxford Modern curated by George Shaw. It was a show of works on paper made in Pembrokeshire most of which were not meant for exhibition. It felt like a real honour to see them.

There is a real rawness about them something that would have you believe that it was all instinct but he was such a master of his craft. I took away that you can make something really intense from simple observations. I think his influence will come through over the next couple of years. It will take time to find it’s way in.

Do you have expectations that you wish your viewers to experience when looking at you work?

No expectations, maybe hopes. I hope that they are drawn to spend some time. To really engage with it and be present in its company. I guess that’s what all artists want really. I hope that there is something that feels a little similar to reading.  Maybe something that happens which is more than just visual. That they’re left with an atmosphere.

Who are your main inspirations with in the art world?

I think I feel an affinity to a period of painting that was just pre abstraction. I think that there might be unfinished business there. And my influences continue to evolve. I am more and more excited by British painting of the first half of  the 20th Century. Graham Sutherland being one. I am romantic about painting and painters. I would probably say that Bonnard is my most consistent inspiration. There is just so much there to discover. I am also becoming a bit obsessed with Casper David Friedrich at the moment. Such theatre and epic scale as apposed to Bonnard intricate pattern and detail

If you had the chance to paint a portrait of anybody alive or dead in a one to one sitting, who would it be and why would you choose them?

I don’t really have a desire to paint people in that sense. There are places I would love to paint. There would be many people I would dearly love to have painted alongside.

So I’m going to cheat a bit and say I would paint with Bonnard at his house in Le Cannet just after lunch. Maybe I would pop him in the picture!

What ambitions do you have for your future art carrier?

I look forward to continuing to mature as a painter. I don’t think that you can fake the affect that years of experience has on the work. I hope to move towards painting full time in the near future.

I am really excited by the prospect of exhibiting beyond the UK. 

What 7 songs would be on your desert island disc?

This is a tricky question. Music means such a lot to me in the studio and this list could be endless

My One and Only you – Chet Baker

Any of Chopin’s Nocturnes

Ko-Ko – Charlie Parker

Wicked Game – Chris Isaak

Nocturn – Kate Bush

I want a forest  - Editors

Maybeline – Chuck Berry

Thank You

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