From Perfume to Birdsong

Dean Melbourne

Category: painting

07.01.2015 – death of potential

 Gargoyle II  , oil on board , 2015 . 

  The process note 1:

I have been here before. In the development of a body of work there is a stage where I  face the sadness of the death of potential in the work. 

The relentlessness of time and the essential need to take action of some sort sees a boundless vision become grounded by the limitations of my mind and hands. 

Note 2 :

The conundrum that without a clear vision to walk towards there is a lot of risk. However the only thing that will lead to a clear vision is doing something , anything. 


4.6.2015 – New Project post 1. Returning.

Visit 1 June 3rd 2015

Even upon entering the place I instantly feel a wave of recognition. Something deep. As I follow the long steps down to the level of the water I can feel my excitement build. I can still feel a little bit of the magic.

This route I would have only taken on my way home and the end of an adventure. My body remembers that complete tiredness that comes when you realise you played for to long and you have left nothing in the tank  to get you home. All your energy is left behind in the adventure.

The place is wilder now but still easily identifiable in most all of the details. Some paths have gone. There is still a sense of fear. Its not all light and lovely. Its deep and dark too. The place is all about light and dark. Thats the key to its joy. It is a place of contrasts and illusion. It feels almost fully reclaimed by nature now, you get the sense that the creatures, the birds particularly feel that this is their territory.

My memory flickers with the invisible boundaries that limited the risk of encountering those things to be feared. Older kids, teenagers, kids from enemy schools. The ultimate fear I guess was a “weirdo” or a “perv”. In truth we never really saw them but there were stories. Some real, some part real and some complete glorious fiction.

I sit at the Newt Pool. Overgrown and overcrowded the water still surges. The reeds are dense and the roots have replaced the pools. The water features, the steps the tunnels all appear natural but you don’t have to look to hard to see they are man made and industrial. Concrete and brick.

Thats another thing about this place it is for the most part created by mans industry. An old clay pit slowly remodelled and reclaimed since pre 1900. There are a few genuine relic woodland patches. I think I can feel their presence. This place is a product of industry and I am a product of this place.

I am taking photographs today. It is impossible to see how I would make paintings from them but they help me to see and select. It is dense and visually complex here the work cannot be literal I am not that painter.

I am going to have to let this place re enchant me, let it entwine with my imagination again and maybe that will be how I begin to make the work.

I finally move on and can’t help complete the journey “home” that is to my parents house. My condition and my medication means that my body mimics that burning tiredness of old. To walk the opposite way to my house would be like defying gravity . It is surely no coincidence that my childhood home and my current one sit on the start and end of the territory that I used to think of as my playground.

I thought i was returning but perhaps I never left.

24.12.2013 – Internal Critical Model

Working with my mentor has challenged me to take a good hard look at my practise, my progress and my critical thinking. He has challenged me to re engage with critical thinking and challenged me to find an ” internal critical model” . A simple notion that sits as an over arching framework that all of my work fits into. Not a statement as such but something that ties all of the threads of what I do together.

I have always tried to work this way, from the inside out that its, rather than choosing issues or concepts to male work about. It feels the right way round for me. This way of working has its pitfalls though. Self indulgence, sentimentality, cliche are all potential problem areas I have strayed into. I now see that recognition and awareness is all that is required.

My research and exploration of areas of interest have lead me to come closer to understanding what it is that drives the work and forms my decision making framework. This has allowed me to form a more precise diagnosis  of areas of dissatisfaction in previous work. In concept, process and realisation. Below is an attempt at setting out a guiding principle for the first time outside of a notebook. I imagine there will be many iterations.

I use drawing,painting and printmaking to observe, record and reveal my psychology. To make myself the subject of research. To once remove myself from the effects of my drives, motivations and idiosyncrasies. Although I will still use the effects as visual code my wider over arching concern is the slowly  emerging causality. In simple terms, I will make paintings of nature at night, but underlying this effect should be an exploration of internal conflict, repetitions, parallel thoughts, fetishes, primal drives and social or cultural conditionings.

By noticing the way i respond to both internal cycles of thinking and external influences and using the code of art making to reveal my understandings to the world I hope to uncover and comment on not only the stimuli but on the more deeply rooted motivations.

In likely hood my work i hope will only slowly reveal these changes as I understand that slow evolution is better than any forced revolution.

My first two new bodies of work will explore my interest in our more primal urges and the ways in which we blur the line from human to animal. These new pieces will reference the british landscape tradition of symbolically employing nature to reveal something of our condition. The other will explore similar idea but from a contemporary angle. Revealing how when faced with new technology humans are inevitably driven to use it to meet their primal urges.

The blog for the next couple of months will be a place to posit thoughts and progress in my thinking as i begin to create new work with this framework starting to take shape.


The Assault of Radiance, Oil on Canvas , 80 x 120, Dean Melbourne 2013. Available with Coates and Scarry at Affordable Art Fair, Battersea. October 24 – 27th.

20.09.2013 – Studio shot and source



15.09.2013 – A gift for Death (detail)


A Gift For Death (detail) Dean Melbourne, oil on canvas

Revelations, secrets, deceptions, the wicked games.

Death, the devil, sin, temptation, demons.

Witches, fairies, ritual, pagan.

30.5.2013 – Certain Whims (New Painting)

Certain Whims, Oil on Board, 40 x 30 cm Dean Melbourne 2013

Certain Whims, Oil on Board, 40 x 30 cm Dean Melbourne 2013

18.5.2013 – small painting of water


Water Study , oil on board , 15 x 15 cm

11.5.2013 – notes from a palace on painting


The following notes are paraphrased in note form for my own use from Robin Ironsides’s critical study of painting in Britain since 1939.

Sutherland is a painter of landscape but his mountains burning at sundown are the theatre of human passions and his woods are the womb of human impulses.

Blacks,browns and reds, sounded a severe almost a chiding note.

The entrances to woods are the threshold of secrets.

If the painter explores the hollows it is to discover the death-throes of of an oak or to surprise a conspiracy among the rocks.

A quality of painting that is disturbing and suggestive – that gyrates in the imagination.

Sutherland had an emotional vision of the human predicament.

Bursting, moonlit growths of nature.

This kind of art seeks to “associate the beauty at which it aims with the less accessible channels of individual existence”.

Palmer’s pictures implicitly summon mystical communication with nature and the everlasting upheavals of the seasons.

These notes were taken sitting in the gardens at Blenheim Palace by Chantal Powell. Surrounded by spectacularly orchestrated nature of Capability Brown these notes take on real significance. In discussion with a friend they crystallise into a real sense of understanding.

Dialogue is as sunlight to my leaves.

Moments in the sun emphasised by a pause in the cools spring wind. Majesty and fakery. Natural phenomena on an artificial stage. Stone torsos, grass green water and warnings. Many many warnings.

New Work – “We Are Dark (The Prestige Trap)”

We Are Dark 2013, Oil and gloss on canvas. Dean Melbourne (all rights reserved)

We Are Dark 2013, Oil and gloss on canvas. Dean Melbourne (all rights reserved)