Dawn Mellor has been exhibiting paintings of celebrities for the past ten years. Rather than being the work’s subject matter, however, the celebrities are the artist’s tools—implements used in a war waged against the culture industries and their control over physical and psychological life.
Mellor’s art is a contentious one – her work exists in a state of perpetual argumentation. She seems less concerned with stating a definitive position than with destabilizing the status quos of female representation through an anarchic address to viewer expectations. This project is accomplished through numerous strategies of dissonance—through her deployment of the crass and the pornographic, by enlisting such antiquated punk signifiers as bondage gear and swastikas, and by conflating the crude with the sophisticated. The celebrities in her paintings are sometimes recognizable, sometimes indecipherable, and Mellor’s skills at rendering alternate between the accomplished and the muddled. She pollutes these public figures with her own personal positions while frequently ’’damaging’’ her paintings through the use of scrawled texts, lipstick traces, or her own footprints. Mellor enlists the aid of a disrupted painterly surface which she creates by utilizing radically conflicting painting styles across the same picture plane.
A nagging question hangs over Mellor’s practice: is this a mature or appropriate response to the problems at hand? An answer in a roundabout way might be provided by a return to the initial moment of the punk formation: was punk
- with its churlish, childish attitude, in its very “badness” - an inappropriate response to the staggering unemployment and race riots that plagued British cities at the time? Another apt question might be: does a painter’s practice need to be defended as mature and responsible? Does that make their accomplishments more laudable?
This is Mellor’s second solo show with Team.