• Figurines have been a perennial human obsession across time, culture, and history, from the earliest known examples of private icons and fetishes to the legendary Golem of Jewish folklore.

    Porcelain figurines produced in the nineteenth century represented an entirely new art form in a much-coveted medium (that at one time was as alchemically elusive and as valuable as gold). These figurines took their inspirations from contemporary painting, illustrious subjects, characters from the Commedia dell’Arte, and so on. Today, this genteel repertoire has expanded to include an endless parade of figures from popular culture, including Alien, Manga heroes, soft-porn stars, Spiderman, even The Simpsons. Perhaps, as Bruce Chatwin implies in his novel Utz, the human fascination for these figurines endures and proliferates because they seem more real and invulnerable than the world beyond them.

    Melissa McGill’s fascination with figurines and the spatial voids and vacuums that surround them expresses itself in compelling sculptures and drawings that physicalize her explorations in an Antipodean world of surrogates and their corresponding negative space. By referring to voids, surrogates and shadows, McGill consciously connects to a vast web of references to do with the rhetoric of the ephemeral or eidetic image – the trace, the copy, the opposite, the reflection, the theatrical impersonation, the illusion, the outline, the dependent or contingent symbol – in short, the virtual as opposed to the substantial image, and, equally, to the human psyche, Jung’s archetypal definition of the personal unconscious, and the Saturnian aspects of the personality as formed by repressed fears and unpleasant emotions.

  • Given her interests, then, it is not surprising that McGill’s process revolves principally around the technique of casting and the constant vacillation between positive and negative space that this technique involves. Working to unite visible dimensionality with its invisible counterpart, and at the same time collapse the perceived distinctions between high and low art, McGill derives a new and quite unfamiliar artistic vocabulary from a common, even banal, language of form.

    A residency at the Kohler industrial porcelain factory in Wisconsin enabled McGill to explore her ideas on a much larger scale, with spectacular results. Assisted by company artisans, she produced a series of unique porcelain sculptures, almost human-size. Continuing to work with the idea of positive casting the interior spaces of figurines, but on a massively amplified scale, she has created the very image of how we have been taught to imagine ghosts – spotlessly white ectoplasmic statues that, despite their extreme weight and lapidary hardness, seem to melt away before our very eyes. In creating such visceral visual experiences in ‘otherness’, might the sculptural events of Melissa McGill then lead us to consider the unreckoned with spaces and forces of our own lives?

    – Louise Neri, for Antipodes: Inside the White Cube, exhibition catalogue published by White Cube, London, 2003

Projects

  • Reverse Punctuation Constellations

    This series of two sided works on paper is a collaboration with writer Sam Anderson. He responded to Melissa McGill’s public art project, Constellation, with typewritten quotes and original pieces. McGill marked the typewritten pages with graphite, pastel, watercolor, Sumi Ink, and charcoal. Then, punching out the periods, punctuation, pauses and/or spaces in the written works with a Japanese hole punch, she created new constellations, illuminated when light shines through the pages.

  • Constellation

    Constellation is a large-scale sculptural project installed around the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island in the section of the Hudson River that passes through Hudson Highlands State Park. Every evening, as the sun goes down, starry lights emerge one by one with the stars of the night sky, creating a new constellation and connecting past and present, light and dark, heaven and earth.

  • Belles

    The Belles forms are made from casts of the hollow interior spaces of 10 different female porcelain figurines. They are positive versions of these hidden empty spaces, which retain a faint and almost ghostly resemblance to their outer shells.

    As viewers move around the space to ring The Belles, the work activates the space sonorously. The bell’s sound is juxtaposed with the figure’s abstraction, resonating from the form it once held.

  • Betweens

    Between is a series of digital prints on cotton rag paper. Image groupings combine photograph fragments of the spaces between the figures in family photographs.

  • Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant erased, replaced with blossoming cherry trees

    These digital renderings depict Melissa McGill’s proposal to erase the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and replace it with cherry trees.

  • Between the Two

    This body of work explores mapping negative spaces and shadows in space with blown black glass and inky black rubber drawings.

  • New Project— The Campi

    Curated by Chiara Spangaro

    Location – Venice 

    Campo Box (Ghetto Nuovo) is on view through June at Giorgio Mastinu Fine Art, San Marco 3126.

    The rest of the exhibition was on view from May 9th to May 14, 2017, coinciding with the opening of La Bienniale di Venezia-57th International Art Exhibition.

    The Campi is a sculptural sound project that invokes daily life in the Venetian Campo (public city square), exploring the conversation between the visible and the invisible that defines public space.

    The project was presented at three locations in Venice, creating an opportunity to explore hidden gems in the city. See more below.

    Header Photo: Luca Marella

  • Palmas

    Palmas activated the Quarry Pool and encircling paths at Manitoga: The Russel Wright Design Center. It was a two part project : A surround sound installation and a live performance. The work takes its name from the improvised, rhythmic clapping that is an integral part – the heartbeat – of Flamenco. Palmas animated the site aurally, inviting a heightened sense of awareness of the site’s landscape.

  • 100 Breaths

    This series, shown here in the studio, is titled 100 Breaths (2016) and consists of 100 works on paper. The artist made each drawing with her breath, blowing metal dust suspended in varnish to create drawings that refer to both geography and the body. The gold, copper and silver forms are highly responsive to ambient light and change throughout the day, as the light changes in the room. They flare up and soften as the viewer moves and looks at them from different angles.