Dawn Mellor is a British painter, who creates works surrounding the cult of celebrity. Her works depict public figures from the worlds of entertainment, film and politics. She states she has no particular vested interest in the subjects she paints per se, which include Karl Lagerfeld, Dustin Hoffman and Hillary Clinton. There is a sense of both distrust from the artist with the subjects, an opinion of both admiration and distaste, as she distorts their forms with occasional bouts of vicious brush work and scribbled writings, which break the reverence of the subject.
Throughout her series of works, which often feature symbols of contemporary culture, she states the underlying narrative in her practice is the fetishisation of the individual in the modern age. As individuality seems to fade through the culture of commodification and constant want of the same ideals, the individuals that originated those ideals are revered, in a sense of fetishism and obsession.
Mellor talked of her preference for a salon hang with the curation of her works, as she preferred the paintings subjects to have a sense of dialogue, stating they need each other to make sense and collectively act as the work through the connotations and relationships that arise when sat next to each other.
Personally, I am not excited by Mellor’s work in a conceptual or aesthetic sense. I appreciate the way she looks at art practice as a continuing form which spans decades, with separate pieces of paintings being just a cut fragment, disassociated with conceptual intentions when removed from the rest of the works. However, I find these images of celebrities particularly passive in their attack; they are depicted as sallow, older or upset in their guise as a public figure of importance, and whether Mellor views this as a concern or not, I believe that this opinion of celebrity culture is overdone and overused. However, I have never see these works in reality, so am basing my opinions on the images seen throughout the duration of the artist talk. Even so, I believe her semi-expressive aesthetic does not compliment the overused idea of celebrity, as the subjects are painted as grotesque depictions of themselves, yet lack a mature consideration of the subjects condition in that film or moment in history.
Negative depictions of contemporary culture are frequently created within visual art in the 21st century, yet a position of negativity can also be limiting for an artist, as they seem to disconnect with the tenderness of the modern age, which can often produce the most thought-provoking work, such as with Marlene Dumas’ misted, haunting paintings. The violence of Mellor’s work appears somewhat contrived and too overt to create paintings which lead me to want to look and revisit them again.