Current Artist of
Every month, RESET// shines the spotlight on one artist and their practice.
Aimee Melaugh is an artist based at Clarendon Street Studios in Derry, Northern Ireland.
Her paintings present a burst of memory. They have the potential to depict a moment in time, acting as an invitation for the viewer to re-examine past events and be transported into a different time and space. Taking references from her Grandfather's experiences of being in the army during World War II, Aimee's paintings include numbers, dates, and both abstracted and figurative imagery. These visual tools are used to explore fragmented memories and emotions.
The figures in Melaugh’s paintings are often blurred and merge into their surroundings, allowing the viewer to interpret the work in relation to their own experience. Body parts along with other objects appear in certain sections and disappear in others, creating a narrative with no ending or beginning. The figures which appear throughout Melaugh’s work are inspired by an old family war album and the book Wall of Steel by Richard Doherty. The book depicts details regarding the history of the 9th Londonderry Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) Regiment of the Royal Artillery, of which her Grandfather belonged to. Paintings Shelter and Coal Shed are examples of how Melaugh incorporates the wartime imagery present in the family album and Doherty's book.
Shelter, 2018, oil on canvas, 160x190cm
Coal Shed, 2018, oil on canvas, 200x200cm
Using her Grandfather's experiences allows her to explore past traumatic events and bring them into the present for people to experience. Coal Shed, is also inspired by photographs taken in the early 70s at a time of conflict in Northern Ireland and depicts normality in the context of a surrounding chaos.
Tuam, 2019, oil on canvas, 210x195cm
Bhopal, 2019, oil on canvas,168x200cm
As Melaugh's work progressed throughout the past year, she has combined making art about her Grandfather’s wartime experience with other significant events, such as Bhopal and the Magdalene laundries at Tuam. To ensure her practice is continuously developing, Melaugh feels that it is important that she explores other real life events that may have more of an impact on the viewer in today’s society.
Of her work of the last year, Melaugh feels that both Tuam and Bhopal effect the viewer more than others. The timeliness of her painting Tuam is evidence that Melaugh does not flinch from national traumatic events; in 2018, the mass graves that were discovered due to the horrors that had taken place at the Magdalene laundry, were due to be exhumed.
Bhopal, she feels, effects the viewer as much as Tuam. This is due to unsettling atmosphere that is created by the numerous figures within the painting. Over thirty-years after the Bhopal Disaster, the side effects from the event still affect people today.
Installation of Mobile Carriage and Aside, 2019
Aside, 2019, oil on canvas, 163x200cm
Her later painting, Aside, presents the aftermath of a tragic event through the presentation of dislocated limbs within an unsettling space. Similar to her previous works, dates and descriptions are present in this painting, again pointing to her Grandfather’s wartime experiences.
"The decision to evaporate the figure and not the three hands as if still engaged in some normal activity is an image unimaginable outside some disaster. The collapse is not yet complete, the perfect seat for no one to sit on screams visual ”j’accuse” – Slavka Sverakova.
Aside is also a perfect example of Melaugh's ability to effectively layer paint and subject. Her process for creating her paintings begins with a digital sketch, of which she refers to when working straight onto the canvas. Her compositions morph as she paints, adding and removing objects and figures intuitively. Her finished paintings are never exactly the same as the plan she began with.
Blood-shod, 2019, oil on canvas, 28x32cm
Blood-shod, 2019, is a smaller abstract painting that is inspired by the coloured clouds of smoke often seen throughout her larger work. The title is taken from a Wilfred Owen poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, which explores ideas surrounding war and patriotism.
Supporting Cast, 2019, oil on canvas,167x205cm
Differing from the type of trauma associated with war, Supporting Cast, 2019, is concerned with personal experiences surrounding the trauma in relation to narcissism and secrecy. More specifically, the painting explores the idea of how narcissists are actors playing a role and how victims are often cast to play a part in their life. Melaugh feels this type of trauma may be more relatable to her viewers. The shift in this subject of trauma is largely due to her experiencing narcissism and gaining an understanding of it.
Vain Exterior, 2019, oil on canvas 50 x 60cm
Vain Exterior, 2019, also explores the theme of narcissism. Within Melaugh's most recent larger paintings, she has used the motif and connotations of masks to represent the idea of a disguise/falseness. These themes came into her work after working behind the scenes for a film, becoming interested in the idea of a disguise and the subsequent false persona that follows. Wanting to portray a sense of playfulness and naivety within this painting, Melaugh explored different objects or figures that could best show these vulnerabilities, and ultimately decided on the skull. The raw human bone instantly sparks the notion of stripping everything back to its basic, authentic form. Victimhood is also present here, as it is historically in her work. Often, the figures are captured in a moment of desperation and with a yearning to reach out to the viewer.