Displaying juxtapositions between materiality and physicality, representing tensions, and creating works that visually convey minutiae are indicative of Melinda Le Guay’s artistic practice. Using a variety of traditional and unusual materials, she makes work that is engaging aesthetically and conceptually. This ability to create work that displays a sense of thoughtful articulation, as well as beauty, has allowed Le Guay’s work to have a broad appeal.
The complex relationship between a body’s inner and outer physical being was explored in Le Guay’s 2008 exhibition at the Gallery entitled In Touch. With its medical aesthetic, this exhibition had an alluring presence. The visual impact of her Wound Series featured in this exhibition is highly visceral. Due to their realistic appearance they are simultaneously intriguing and demanding of a physical reaction, whether that be an empathetic stab of pain or an impulse to only peak and not stare. Much like the fascination/horror complex of a car crash, this series invites one to engage, as Le Guay has depicted something in a visually delicate way that is traditionally grotesque. The open lacerations display the ability the body has to recover from piercing external forces, whilst also conveying the fragility of the human body. Much like the other pieces from In Touch, Le Guay reveals the intricate and manifold reality of the human body’s surface. As the exhibition blurb explains, “The work for this exhibition engages with the idea of the skin as an interface between an inner and outer world and presents an exploration into the skin not only as a site of tactile engagement with reparative and healing possibilities, but also as one of conflict.”
Left: Melinda Le Guay, ‘Wound’ 2008, mixed media and gesso on canvas, 15 x 15 x 2.5cm
Right: Melinda Le Guay, ‘Wound’ 2008, mixed media on gesso on canvas, 15 x 15 x 2.5cm
Le Guay’s most recent solo show at the Gallery in 2011, entitled Conflict, embodied some of the key themes central to her work, whilst being aesthetically different from her 2008 exhibition. Her intricately detailed wire dresses displayed tensions between their materials and the final object, creating an alluring beauty, which juxtaposed the dresses prickly surface. They also conveyed minutiae, through the repetitious act of knitting used to create the pieces. As opposed to the restricted colour palette of most of Le Guay’s works, some of the dresses in this series were enlivened with bright reds and golds, as well as some adhering to the pinks and creams she often employs. An example is her work ‘Covert,’ which has a multi-layered bodice that starts in a bright golden hue that tapers out to a soft-coloured enamel wire. Speckled throughout the dress is an assortment of deep and bright yellow fragments and inconspicuous bones. Placed in such a way that balances out their visual impact are a spotted feather and a brass pin of a flying bird. The initial beauty of the dress itself and its golden embellishments are paradoxically paired with the spiky surface of the piece. The surface creates a further paradox, as this dress could not be worn for comfort or protection. Le Guay’s meticulous and precise placement of objects within the dress and ‘Covert’s’ method of creation are an ocular indication of her labour intensive techniques.
Later this year Le Guay is set to have an exhibition that will combine her fascination with the body displayed in her 2008 exhibition and her use of repetitious techniques employed in the 2011 exhibition. This exhibition, entitled Blood Lines is scheduled from the 4 to 22 December. As Le Guay explains, “using process as an end and a means, and allowing for elements of human error, vigilant hand-eye co-ordination will underpin the performative nature of the work reflecting rhythm and movement.”
Left: Melinda Le Guay, ‘Covert’ 2011, enamelled copper wire, thread, gauze, bone, brass brooch, pin, feather, paper, beads, 72 x 21 x 10cm