With her new set of oil paintings, 2011 Glover Prize finalist Melanie Scaife leaves behind her dour and wintry Clarice Beckett-like landscapes in favour of something lush and dynamic. She trades spectral and sallow greys for roiling reds (cadmium, perylene and alizarin) and symphonic blues and greens (viridian, cobalt, cerulean and ultramarine).
Instead of the static and indifferent earth, here she paints the benign and infinitely generous water. Even in the industrialised inner west of Melbourne – under the Westgate Bridge no less – Scaife finds kaleidoscopic, luscious, incandescent colours bouncing around in the oily shallows.
Not surprisingly, these works are highly responsive to different lighting states, handsomely repaying time spent with them in a naturally lit space as day turns to dusk. They serenely command our attention.
In individual works, colours jostle, one swatch ‘pops’ after another. Even in the single colour work ‘Murmur’ – a tour de force in blooming crimson – there is an intriguing narrative of the daytime blues seen and left behind. Like the isomer the colour takes its name from, alizarin crimson responds to its surroundings like litmus. As does the artist to hers.
Scaife invites us to find light in darkness. To find motion in stillness. To find enlightenment in meditation. She invites us to join her in an interior landscape.
– Chris Boyd