Melitta Perry

The Quickening

May 26 - June 9 2018

Huge skies vault over brown-grassed plains that stretch to distant horizons. A single house stands seemingly mute in the absence of human habitation. The sense of quietude is profound, but look more closely at Melitta Perry's landscapes, something is astir - the quickening.

All the works are underpinned by the concept of a quickening, Perry reveals. They are about the subtle shifts that herald change and the turning of the cycle of life. With poetic sensibility Perry communicates the mystery and magnitude of such. There is no sense of alienation. Hers is a deeply felt, intuitive relationship with the interconnectedness of all things.

The imagery is grounded in a personal flux, the existential flow between a mother and daughter, Perry continues. She tells that the paintings tacitly refer to her experience of motherhood: the quickening of a new life in utero; the subsequent years of nurturing and then the inevitable departure of a child from hearth and home. Envisioned metaphorically, the subject is rendered devoid of sentimentality.

Living in the Northern Rivers area for many years, Perry has celebrated nature's rhythms, noting the harbingers of change in cloud formations and the heightened activity of insects, most particularly that of bees. Few creatures are as important in world symbology as the bee and the life of its colony. Seeking an authenticity to her images, Perry attended beekeeping classes at a local community college. Not surprisingly, she was the only student without intention of actually setting up a hive in the garden.

The houses portrayed in the paintings are all versions of the classic Queenslander. Residing in one herself, Perry discerns the structure as having a resemblance to that of a beehive. In Home Sweet, the latticework of the enclosed verandah has morphed into the hexagonal cells of honeycomb called Brood Frames. Hovering in the open-ended, central passageway is a giant queen bee asserting her Queenright. Perry relates that a healthy, functioning hive is contingent upon the pheromones the queen produces.

The work alludes to a happy home, life ticking nicely along, but underlying this is the knowledge that the law of nature will soon ordain an ending to the tranquil status quo. Indicative of the quickening or impending change, bees swarm around the frangipani flowers drifting over the home to places far away.

Various swarms of bees appear in each painting. Grass Tree Shower is a work relating to the words from a poem by Randolph Stow: ... and the blackboys, tougher than ancestors > bloom in a fume of bees. It depicts two ancient grass trees she once saw at her brother's property west of Lismore. Standing on a slight ridge and distanced from the house, their towering spikes are festooned in flowers. Perry describes the scene as a Drone Congregation Area, the technical term for the place to which a queen bee comes questing for mates. Amidst the cascading, honey-scented blossoms the first stage in the founding of a new colony is initiated.

The Heart Swarm imagery manifests in the arch formed by the parting of great mammatus clouds, their breast-like pouches analogous to the underlying sentiment. My Daughter Queen, having loomed ever larger within the Brood Frame of our hive, has now flown, explains Perry. In the lead up to her departure there was a quickening - shifts, some sweet, some stinging. I think part of my heart went with her. The continuity of life's great cycles is thus preserved. Although rarely perceived in the stream of everyday consciousness, there runs the constant hum of Nature, which declares Perry, is incidentally the very sound of the hive!!



Melitta Perry currently lives and works in Mullumbimby and has a BA Visual Arts (Painting) Southern Cross University 2013. She originally trained as an architectural illustrator in the Sydney studio of Ambler & Haycraft in the late 80's before living and working in Britain for more than a decade. Based in Cardiff, Wales she lectured at University of Wales (UWIC) in illustration and showed with Albany Gallery, Cardiff, returning to Australia in 2002. She has exhibited with Art Galleries Schubert, Gold Coast (2002 - 2009) and Catherine Asquith Gallery, Melbourne (2005 - 2010). Perry was winner of the Council Acquisitive Prize, Byron Arts Classic 2015; received the William Fletcher Tertiary Grant 2013; won the Coraki Painting Prize 2013. She has been a finalist in the Wilson Art Award 2012; Country Energy Award for Landscape 2009, 2007; Portia Geach Memorial Award 2005; Metro 5 Art Award 2005. The Quickening is her sixth solo show.


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