Melissa Wraxall’s paintings evoke the past, but these are not nostalgic ventures; her images and the people in them are very much alive. Often working from the archival treasure of found photographs from her family collection, Melissa reconstructs moments frozen in time, allowing the viewer to build their own narrative. Perhaps this is due to the absence of those who were once living that we are able to imagine what it was like to feel the spray from the waterfall or the throb of the motorbike’s engine. Without such memories we slip into a kind of forgetfulness; that the past just was just as vibrant as it is now, fraught with worries and concerns equal to our own. Melissa brings the past successfully into the now, skilfully and with painterly precision, she shows a clear understanding of how to use the medium to convey an ever present vitality of the past.
Go Cat Go
Perhaps this due to the absence of those who were once alive and present to remember what it was like to be alive to be standing by that Water Fall or riding that motorbike, without such memories we slip into a kind of forgetfulness, that the past just was just as vibrant as it is now and fraught with worries and concerns equal to our own. Melissa brings the past successfully into the now, skillfully with painterly precision with a clear understanding of how to use the medium to convey what was the ever present aliveness of the past.
Air Force Cadet
Most of my paintings and drawings are based on archival photographs, and refer to the relentless passing of time, transient lives and fleeting memories. Many of the photographs are black and white which gives me freedom to use colour intuitively; and the more faded, out-of focus or indistinct the photograph, the better, as it allows for more painterly invention.
Girl With Horses
“The End of the Beginning”
There are times however, when I do respond to current events which affect me emotionally – sometimes in a real and direct sense. In January 2014, I had a show at 44AD Artspace in Bath. I did a lot of marketing, including paying for ads in the local magazines, and I had positive replies from about a hundred people for the PV. However, the best-laid plans of mice and men – on the day of my Private View, a crane truck involved in the construction of a big hotel about a minute’s walk from the gallery, tipped over! It was “resting” on the corner of the nearby Lamb and Lion Pub, like a drunk propping up the bar. Luckily, no-one was hurt, but there was a danger of the whole lot crashing down, so the whole area had to be closed off, including the walkway outside the gallery. Result – the Private View had to be cancelled. I did have the PV a couple of nights later but only about thirty people were able to come that night, which was incredibly gutting. So, “The End of the Beginning” was about venting my frustration…my “art therapy” if you like.
Not long after, I was looking through some old slides that my dad took in the 1950’s and one in particular stood out. It was of an old Bedford truck which had crashed through a wooden fence and was again “resting” at an angle, on a sandy beach. Not only did it strike me that this was similar to the truck painting I had done a couple of weeks before, but I also realised that this was proof of a story that my dad had told me a few times through my childhood. He had been lying on a beach in Sydney, and suddenly had the idea that he wanted to move further down the beach. So, he got up, picked up his towel and was just flapping it down in the new spot when this huge truck crashed through the fence and landed just where he had been lying! Somebody’s towel was right under one of the tyres, so it was also incredibly lucky that they had chosen that moment for a swim. So, this slide was the starting point for “Near Miss”.
“The End of the Beginning” and “Near Miss” were shown as a pair at Mike Tooby’s “It was Amazing” show, on coincidences, later in the year.