From Perfume to Birdsong

Dean Melbourne

Tag: painting

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.


7.5.2014 – Studio notes on starting new work

Days at the start of a body of work can tempt me into a panic. There is nothing solid in my vision of the new work just a vague notion. Sometimes an image that I want to start with. Often i have a sense of an atmosphere i want to create. 

This time I have an idea about palette and tonal range. A loose notion of where the drive to make this work is coming from in an internal sense. My motivation. Everything else after that is hazy and difficult to grasp. 

I try to visualise making the marks, imagine me at the canvas and i go through the motions mentally. I guess like a athlete visualising their performance. 

Today the sense of direction has moved in and out of focus. Trying to paint to early, to force it feels all wrong and the results frustrate and only add to the panic. 

There seems to be one artist standing out as achieving in some way what i want to attempt in the new work. 

Cecily Brown’s balance between figuration and abstraction , her rhythmic mark making. Her variation of marks and her attempt to let painting do more than just describe. 

a few things I must try to remember 

  • Don’t start with a brush. Rags , etc to give variety. 
  • to be brave and instinctive in my choice of subject matter.

Do not over think it, don’t pre judge it or second guess what people might say or think. CB often goes for erotic content in a way that I would always shy away from, but her boldness is a reminder that I can go with my gut and not be afraid to make images that are arresting. 

  • She say’s “that the viewer can’t tear their eyes from” 

i have images that my instinct tells me will make urgent and potent paintings that I have continually overlooked. In fear of a reaction, maybe its the reaction to a male painter painting the female nude or an accusation of objectification . I am confident that my intentions are only to bring a viewer into a situation of high drama or tension or uncertainty, unease. to gently provoke and to paint images full of heart pounding moments and complex urges or impulses that exist often only in our private moments. 

In my latest counselling session I had a long conversation about reconnecting with my intuition. to make choices that feel right. (FOR ME) I do that when in the the middle of a painting, but at this point in the process self doubt and the concerns of a fictional set of critics paralyse. 

What I have, 

Palette – Pastels, pink, blue, yellow, green, Flesh tones 

Sizes – 1 x 220 x 190 , 2x 190 x 130 , 3 x 120 x 100

Imagery sources – 80’s vogues, clothing catalogues, sapphic erotica, porn

Personal drive – To revisit after a long gap my fascination, fetishisation and deep rooted longing towards femininity. Revisting key habits form my childhood and adolescence to inform my visual exploration. 

 aims for me- the paintings should echo my thought processes and idiosyncrasies. My remembered fetishes and obsessions. The sexualisation of that relationship with femininity (cross dressing) and recent revelations that have removed that sexualisation. 

 external source research – Freuds ” riddle of femininity” in men. 

aims for the viewer  – make paintings that recreate a sense of siren call, mesmerising, seductive, a soft almost mystical beckoning of a place that is safe and beautiful with a suggestion of something darker , secrecy and guilt , and sexual fetish. 



13.4.14 – Open Studio Weekend


Over the last two days my little studio in Stourbridge has seen a steady and constant flow of visitors. My first ever open studio event of any kind came as part of a programme of activity that supports my Art Council supported project to produce a new body of work whie sharing my learning with a wider audience. 

It was a pretty strange but surprisingly pleasant experience. Getting the studio together was a much bigger job than i expected. Although I did decide i wanted two new walls to be built (last Monday) to give me more room to show work. The space is now much more fit for my next phase of work so the benefits of that work will be felt for ages.

The studio space also saw the arrival of a new roomie. My really good friend Jon Sanderson who is doing a fantastic job of becoming an amazing upholsterer needed a bit more room as his client list grows and grows so he has now taken up residence in the space. I am really looking forward to the calming influence of Jon’s craft on the space. He comes with the added bonus of being fantastic at making spaces look very cool! 

Despite being very busy painting over the last few months I have found it very difficult to get into the habit of writing regularly. I often feel overwhelmed by the swirling thoughts about the work. I will start hear though. Seeing older work hung with newer and having friends and family around as well as local people made me look at my work in a very different way. 

I am rightly i think feeling highly critical of my output. I know however that that is not the most useful thing to get into. Much more interesting to think about why I found it so difficult to share my work this weekend. 

I think that in one way seeing the work up and people engaging in it highlighted that gap between where I want the work to be and where it is. This is the benefit of showing for an artist isn’t it? We build a perception of what we have done or of the progress we feel we have made. Then in the face of real people standing in front of it we see it for what it really is. 

I know it would help to get over my fear of writing about the work and my ideas and actually engage in some dialogue . I make a renewed vow to do that here. I know that the two people who might read this will no doubt cut me some slack and allow me to wronger that a wrong thing! 

Thanks to everyone that came to see me and Jon and offer their support and to everyone that helped get the thing together! 


31.03.2014 – Open Studio Event (12th – 13th April)






The event is supported by Arts Council England 


27.03.14 – Speaking event at Wem Town Hall tonight.

Tonight I will be speaking at Wem Town Hall in an event organised by Creative Enterprise and Creative Shift. Having been fortunate enough to receive support from CE to have mentoring from Charlie Smith London’s Zavier Ellis. Helga Henry and I will be discussing the effect that mentoring both as mentors and mentees has had on our respective businesses and careers. 

For more information follow the link to Wem Town Hall website.

If you are coming along I look forward to meeting you later!  

from the blurb 

To give you an idea of the sort of difference our services can make to your creative business we will also hear from Helga Henry, a mentor and business advisor with the Creative Enterprise scheme and founder of Creative Shift. She will be “in conversation” with Dean Melbourne a painter and mentor to a number of artists on Creative Enterprise whose work is quickly becoming recognized nationally and internationally. They will discuss the impact that mentoring has made on their respective businesses and careers.

24.03.14 – I Can’t Tell You Why (new work)


I Can’t Tell You Why, Oil and gloss on canvas, 120 x 80cm Dean Melbourne

21.03.2014 – Carry (Study) Oil pastel on paper


Carry (study) – Oil pastel on paper, 2014 , Dean Melbourne

19.03.2014 – Before the night is through (whole lotta love)


Before the night is through (whole lotta love), Oil and gloss on canvas, 190 x 190 cm Dean Melbourne. 2014

03.03.2014 – Some people like to stay out late (new painting)


Some people like to stay out late, Oil and gloss on canvas , 120 x 80xm, Dean Melbourne

22.02.2014 – Come Undone (new painting)


Come Undone, Oil and gloss on canvas, 110 x 110cm 2014, Dean Melbourne