Melanie Tomlinson - Illustrator and Automatist

I've been a fan of Melanie Tomlinson's work for quite some time.  I have one of her automata in my collection of contemporary art and craft known jokingly in our house as my 'pension'.  She draws on the heritage of folk tales - especially those from Romania - to make automata that are beautiful, quirky, lively and sometimes just a little bit dark.  A favourite of mine is 'Tudorita Washing Red Dress' - a young woman diligently washing a glittery red garment while a wolf lolls at her feet.  I have drawn on the primal quality of folk takes in my own work many times.  They have a double identity as both children's bedtimes stories and maps of the darker and dangerous side of human nature and the world.  They can be shockingly raw and deceptively cheery and sweet.  What is it about these folks tales that harmonises with my work?  Perhaps they reflect something of the ambiguities of life - the harsh realities of starvation, abuse and murder that take place alongside the more wholesome tales of love, full bellies and happy ever after.  But I think it's more than that.  In her book 'Decreation', the poet and academic Anne Carson, tells a tale (or is it a poem? - that's what is so good about Anne Carson) of her earliest memory.  She dreamt the she woke up and went downstairs to the living room.  She found the room both very much the usual room, hushed and empty, but also profoundly and utterly strange.  She described this to herself as having 'caught the room sleeping', and she recalls that it took her years to frame the question as to why she found this strangeness to supremely consoling.  She talks of how she seemed to enter the room from the 'sleep side' - it was so perfectly itself, and yet by catching it sleeping, she had a glimpse into something truly incognito at the heart of her domestic life and world.  Folks tales, for me, have something of this consoling difference - something that inserts a knife into everyday life and opens up a world of the impossible - or the possible (whichever way you choose to look at it).  That provides a glimpse into the incognito that is so hard to access at other times.  This articulates for me something of what I try to achieve in my art - to enter everyday life from the sleep side and see what treasures and consolations I might find there.

Image: Tudorita Washing Red Dress, Melanie Tomlinson


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