Melinda Schawel has always been drawn to the physicality of creative process, and allowed the non-rational act of making to guide the development of her atmospheric imagery. Previously this affinity for process has led her to explore printmaking, yet over recent years she has expanded her repertoire to incorporate numerous techniques executed on paper and wood. Through scraping, sanding, painting, perforating, drawing, cutting, drilling and tearing, Schawel crafts her artwork in a manually intensive process that belies the graceful abstracted visions that result.

Working with a pared back palette of neutral tones that are accented by bold reds and graphic yellows, Schawel’s works appear both primordial and feather-light. The artist strikes a balance between control and chaos as she manipulates her medium and the ever-present element of surprise to create shapes and forms of a largely variegated nature. These compositional entities are always disparate, and each bears its own distinct topography. At times they appear continental, like islands and landmasses seen from an aerial perspective floating in an ocean of glacial negative space. At other times they might seem like matter enlarged under a microscope, or leaves drifting past on a pavement. Part of the appeal of this work is its ability to slip so readily between the macro and the micro. 

Schawel’s forms hover on the surface, occasionally collide into one another, and act in dynamic tandem. There is a push and pull tension where some recede and others seem to come forward in the pictorial space, as she sets up a formal interplay between compositional elements. From aqueous stains to areas of hard-edged mineral density, the artist adapts her methods of application in search of a visual equilibrium within each image, and notes the importance of knowing when to hold back. This awareness translates in the successful and subtle evocation of atmospheric space. Read more..

Marguerite Brown

MA ArtCur