Melissa Cameron - Body Politic  

16 March to 16 April 2016


Bilk Gallery is delighted to show our first solo exhibition of Melissa Cameron’s beautifully considered pieces. Body Politic is an exhibition of new works by the artist, which have all been conceived and created since her move to Seattle in the USA in 2012.

At first glance these pieces appear extensions of her earlier works, they are light and finely balanced – exquisite in their creation. On closer consideration many works utilise everyday objects that we recognise within the pieces, rather than exclusively antique and vintage objects that formed the basis of her previous works. Here we find, in modified forms, a hand trowel, a non-stick pan and a rice dish sitting alongside vintage Japanese lacquer ware and ornately decorated silver-plate. The other difference with this collection is that the references are more confronting; in this series the patterns she has created depict darker motifs.

Melissa’s ongoing research into military technologies has informed the three interrelated series exhibited in Body Politic, and for the first time she includes wall pieces alongside her jewellery and object works. As she says, “These works grew much larger than my previous pieces, and in one instance outgrew jewellery as a medium. In the end I had to put the idea first and ultimately found myself making jewellery for the wall.” 

The wall panels make up a part of the series HEAT, in which the works depict the damage a HEAT warhead made to an armoured tank. The firework-like display on the wall panels show the strange beauty of this destructive pattern. Two jewellery pieces are made from the laser cut ‘fall outs’ from the nine panels, a brooch and a seven-meter long neckpiece. The state of disassociation between the separated pieces (the wall and jewel works) is amplified by the jewellery pieces’ ability to continue their movement. This separation further illustrates the tremendous force of the missile, which through disconnection and movement of molten metal created pattern on plate steel. 

Most works in the exhibition belong to the Escalation Series, which charts through wearable works, the history of various weapon technologies. Each origin object was chosen for its domestic associations and its age, relative to the other objects used. The weapons are depicted through the reinterpretation of the object, which is modified in such a way as to make each object into jewellery. The individual representations of complex tools of war combine in the gallery to show a loose family tree of military technologies. Associations made by the artist place the works in an informal system of categorization, which ties different parts of the family tree together. Weapons such as Tank and Cannon form one branch, while Sword and Gun form another. These connections are informed by how the body (or bodies) might interact with each weapon.

The links between the past and present allows both the old and new weapons to be seen in a different context, while presenting military hardware through personal objects, each ripe with domestic associations, provides a second context. The pieces can perform yet another contextual shift, as they move from the gallery wall and onto the body, turning the viewer into the wearer. The changing sites of meaning are a prompt to consider the role of the body in each context, and engage the viewer to question humanity’s continuing relations with itself.

© Bilk Gallery 2020 

Directors Helen Aitken - Kuhnen and Mio Kuhnen               Subscribe/ Facebook/ Instagram