Current Issue #488

Melanie Cooper’s
internal landscapes

Melanie Cooper, Guts Ache detail

With work that blurs the line between painting and textiles, Cooper looks inward to explore the space between thought and action.

Adelaide-based abstract artist Melanie Cooper defines herself as a painter whose practice extends into textiles. “I refer to my textile works as paintings. I find it really hard to think of them separately. I’m still trying to create different surfaces and different textures. I am attempting to solve the same problems with the textiles that I am with painting,” says Cooper.

In 1997 Cooper graduated with an Advanced Diploma of Applied and Visual Art, specialising in painting and drawing, from the North Adelaide School of Art – which later merged with the Centre of Performing Arts to become Adelaide College of the Arts.

Since then she has exhibited regularly in group and solo exhibitions and completed a PhD in Art History at the University of Adelaide. She has occupied a space at the Floating Goose Studios since 2016. Whether working with painting or textiles, Cooper works instinctively responding to her own experiences and her surroundings, to present work that encapsulates ideas around place, memory, and identity.

Melanie Cooper, Nothing Beautiful

“While the material and the techniques are different, I still work very intuitively and make decisions in the same way. For me creating work is a physical process and I feel the same way while I’m making, whether it’s painting or textiles,” explains Cooper.

Cooper’s last solo exhibition, The Other Side of Silence at the Collective Haunt in 2019, was an extension of her 2017 exhibition Reset and Resist at the Floating Goose. She continues to explore what happens in the space between thought and action or thought and speech. It’s what Cooper describes as the internal landscape, where you explore and process thoughts and feelings when you are dealing with difficult experiences.

“It is about making work that enables me to say things that I can’t actually say out loud,” says Cooper. “It is a resistance to despair and piecing things together so that I can come to my own terms of acceptance and understanding of circumstances, as well as commemorating memory and reasserting identity.”

Cooper is also pushing the notion of experiencing joy in the present moment, reflecting the experience of moving through the city space and the energy that comes from that. Her paintings respond to graffiti, architecture and the urban landscape.

Like many practising artists, Cooper’s exhibition schedule has been placed on hold as a result of COVID-19. Cooper was due to have an exhibition in May at the Pepper Street Arts Centre, which was to include workshops and artists’ talks, but that has been cancelled and is yet to be rescheduled. She was also part of a collaborative project at Jam Factory which has been moved from October this year to February 2021.

In the meantime, Cooper has been working in collaboration with Barry Magazinovic and Chloe Noble to put together The Exquisite Build, one of the art rooms featured as part of ARTHUR Art Bar’s SALA Festival exhibition SA LA LA LAND.

Ahead of this year’s SALA, Cooper said the upheaval of 2020 inspired her to adjust her approach. “A lot of venues [were] up in the air about having a SALA exhibition so I thought I would make some smaller pieces that are more accessible, because a lot of people don’t have a lot of money at the moment,” Cooper says. “I am trying to be really mindful about the current climate.”

31 July – 31 August
ARTHUR Art House
66 Currie Street

Jane Llewellyn

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