Artist Q&A with Melanie Comber

“Way Out 56”, oil and pigment on paper, 12 x 16 in | 31 x 41 cm, 2020

Why did you become an artist?

Making things and painting became a way for me to express myself from a very young age. I hated school and found it really difficult to follow the group. In art class, I discovered that I could express myself through a process of ‘making’.  I could have a world that I created; a space that was solely mine to dictate. From there I just knew that this was the way that I wanted to face the world, and focused my education towards art school. It was a search for my own voice, my own language, and a way to project myself in the world that stood outside everyone else.

Melanie Comber, self portrait

How is your work different than everything else out there?

I make paintings using traditional materials, but I don’t apply those materials in a traditional way. I use oil paint and loose pigments to create large three dimensional surfaces which have a very illusory appearance. They play between painting, sculpture, and photography. On first glance the viewer is never quite sure what exactly they are looking at.  The most common question that I get asked about my work is, “how is it made?” I want the viewer to move around the work and I have been known to make work that changes colour from different directions. I want the viewer to work at having an experience with my painting, and want it to surprise you.

What’s different about your current body of work?

I spent the COVID-19 lockdown unable to access my studio space so I had to find a way to adapt my process.  I began painting … Click here to read more

Machiko Edmondson’s Unattainable Desire

In her first virtual solo exhibition taking place at Robert Berry Gallery from June 26th through July 26th, 2020, London-based artist Machiko Edmondson has once again created an expansive look into the beauty and consumer cultures we currently live in.  Just imagine, you can have a larger than life, never-aging fashion model being ever present on your living room wall for decades to come.

For her new body of work, Edmondson has painted new hyperrealistic faces through a rigorous studio practice and a renewed interest in offering the viewer some narrative into the lives of these stylized portraits.  The artist has combined a subtle mixture of images to create these new portraits, while also using some actual figures for the first time in years.

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

For the untrained eye, Edmondson’s works appear to be larger than life photographs of women with the type of ideal beauty that one would see in all the beauty magazines targeted to young woman to promote style and luxury through the acquisition of consumer goods: clothing, makeup, hair products and jewelry.  When in fact, the artist is actually promoting a disdain for the entire industry.  The viewer who takes the time to get up close to the paintings will discover the immense amount of brushwork, blending, and laborious effort that went into making these paintings become something much more.   

The artist states, “the works become paintings of unattainable desire,” and it is this bluff that is at the heart of the exhibition.  In the era of identity becoming dominant, Edmondson strips these figures of what makes each women an individual, and ironically furthers the notion of unobtainable beauty.  These idealized women have a level of beauty that is simply not possible in a reality without significant photo editing and … Click here to read more

Hiroshi Senju’s Polar Opposites

Everything can be divided between polar opposites, dark and light, good and bad, night and day, yin and yang, etc.  That can also be said of Hiroshi Senju’s return to waterfall imagery in his “Beginnings” exhibition across Sundaram Tagore’s two New York locations on 27th Street in Chelsea and Madison Avenue in the Upper East Side.  

After seeing Senju’s blacklight installation in Singapore in 2016, the beauty and immediacy of his work has been on this critic’s radar ever since.  There is something both calming and frenetic about moving water, and he is able to capture the picturesque moment like a photographer would, while creating movement and energy like the Futurists did.  The high contrast of black and white pigments in his waterfall pieces has always been one their strongpoints, and in these new paintings, that continues to be the case.   Although, there are a few canvases with blue backgrounds that are similar in tone and vibrancy to the blacklight, where white pigments appear when illuminated.  It is these blue canvases, alongside a few red background works that really showcase what new colors can do to an artist’s work.

Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore

Compare them to the paintings of Italian ZERO artists Enrico Castellani and Lucio Fontana where subtle changes in the artist’s palette have significant and lasting changes to the work. By completely changing the color, Senju has augmented the contrast between the water and the earth, reducing the polar opposite of black and white in his other paintings.  The color becomes more of a focus, just as the flat red of a Fontana sets the stage for the violent cut that the artist performs to the canvas.  Whereas Senju adds the lighter white pigments to soften the work, creating an assemblance of harmony in each work.

In … Click here to read more

Bill Scott’s Colorful Fantasies

For his eighth solo show with Hollis Taggart, Bill Scott presents “A Prolonged Moment”, an exhibition featuring new oil on canvas paintings and watercolors on paper. The show is viewable online and by appointment at the gallery’s 26th Street location from June 15 through July 24, 2020.

Installation view of Bill Scott: A Prolonged Moment. Courtesy of Hollis Taggart

The included works are full of rich color and a significant amount of energy and movement.  Although the gallery is currently open by appointment only at the moment of publication, Scott’s rich abstractions are likely to appeal to collectors exploring online, with their bright colors, energy, and immediately recognized gestures–all of which are characteristic of Scott’s previous work.  

All of the work in the show starts with large swashes of bold colors; reds, blues, and yellows become dominant surfaces for Scott’s expressive brushwork. Upon finishing the groundwork of color, the artist begins digging into his past and also his present surroundings.  References to natural forms, shapes, traditional landscapes, plants, and the local Philadelphia skyline are all visible in his new works.

Compared to his older pieces, there is a bit more geometry in these paintings, and there is a more illustrative influence, possibly from the return to using a finer watercolor brush for the smaller works on paper.   With the canvases, Scott is working with numerous layers of thin and transparent paint, with slow and methodical applications, which is in strong contrast to many abstract painters of his generation who were working quickly and thickly, which much less deliberate intent.

In the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, the artist states that the small watercolors are not studies for paintings, and it would appear that they are spiritually connected, but have a very separate intent. These small-scale works, measuring approximately 12 x 16 … Click here to read more

John Ruby’s Textured Appropriation of the Late Greats

In his first virtual solo exhibition taking place at Robert Berry Gallery, Chicago-based artist John Ruby has appropriated imagery of the world’s most iconic musicians, and puts a renewed importance on the rock-and-roll side of Pop Art. 

For his new body of work, Ruby is creating digital recontextualizations of famous images of John Lennon, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, David Bowie, and other late greats.  Ruby’s inspiration behind the rock and roll motif seems to be one from the vantage point of an artist who clearly loves music.  Many artists listen to classical music when creating, but this artist clearly loves the electric guitar and all the culture surrounding it.   Every music fan has their idols, and Ruby certainly was inspired by what he grew up with in the 70s and 80s. 

Image courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery

The show is the first online only show at Robert Berry Gallery, which seems to be the new trend in the art world given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual exhibitions are quite a step forward over the already stale “viewing room” that have been making their way into the online strategies of other dealers.  Not having physical limitations allows Ruby to exhibit these fantastic new paintings during a time when collectors are craving new works to fill up all their free time between Zoom calls and emails.  

Virtual only might be a concern for some, but what is very apparent from the detailed images and video clips uploaded onto the gallery site, is the deep textured surfaces which look to be colored string woven across the surface of the canvas. One can clearly see that there is a handmade painted acrylic impasto as the structural foundation of … Click here to read more