“I am interested in how we are defined and confined by the physiology, psychology, culture, geography, and time period we are born into and live. Contexts which inform us. Which give us meaning. Meaning which is built, sustained and discarded moment by moment. Meaning we don’t always abide by, contexts we don’t always agreed with or even understand. In these moments I begin to see.” Mel Dare
Mel Dare is an Australian visual artist and educator based in Perth, Western Australia. She explores how meaning is constructed within individual subjectivity primarily through painting and drawing.
The artist was raised on a farm just off the central Wheatbelt of Western Australia. The isolation of artist’s childhood landscape gave her brother and her vast spaces to explore and horizons to contemplate. Born to an Australian farmer and a mother who at 3 years old (after WWII) fled with her family – from the former Czechoslovakia – to Australia as a refugee. There were great contrasts between her paternal and maternal families: one side stoic, quiet and contained. The other bursting with laughter, big voices and great affection. Negotiating these disparate familial cultural norms and expectations began Dare’s fascination with why people are the way they are and act as they do.
The starting point for her current body of work began in 2013 in the Czech Republic when the artist revisited her mother’s homeland and developed a further interest in the notion of self. An interest in how an individual is constructed, threaded together by divergent strands of culture as well as the moments of time and place we exist. Gentle strands and crude stitches forming the pattern of conditioning imposed by external and internal influences. Weaving filters to see through, blankets to comfort ourselves, nets to save us and maps by which to navigate life. Formed by our simple yet almost all consuming need to survive and our equally strong desire for comfort.
This re-acquaintance with personal narrative has resulted in many individual art works and whole exhibitions including paintings exhibited in the group show Florid which art critic Jude Van Der Merwe described as “These exquisite meditations of texture, pattern and form convey a floating harmony where the ‘stitches’ become their own self-contained universe of memory.” As well as the exhibition with Olga Cironis Lines That Define in which art critic Laetitia Wilson described Dare’s work: “Such spatial and linear fields and patterns appear to be about the cosmos, the growth of lichen, cellular clusters, the movement of reeds under water, or the play of light, yet they are equally about internal worlds of thought, memory, emotion and identity.”
Dare’s investigation into personal narrative has culminated in her 12th solo exhibition Pulling Threads. Opening on the 27th of August 2021 at Gallery25, Edith Cowan University. The artworks selected by the curator Sue Starcken include paintings, 3D works and drawings. This particular body of work continues her interest in personal narrative however it also has been informed and influenced by the artist’s growing awareness of mortality (the loss of love ones, venturing into mid-life, and the reality of Covid-19); as well as reflecting on her own life in response to numerous current socio-political events; as well as working in the prison system as an art tutor.
Since graduating with Honours, Bachelor of Arts (Arts) in 1999 Dare has exhibited 12 solo, and 3 duo exhibitions. As well as being selected as a finalist for many awards including Bunbury Biennale (2017, 2019, 2021), Collie Art Prize 2018, Joondalup Invitational Art Award 2017, Royal Perth Art Award 2017, Mid West Art Prize (2015 & 2017), Bankwest Contemporary Art Prize 2015, Albany Art Prize (2014), Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize 2014, and Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2D 2014.
She has also been invited to participate in numerous curated group exhibitions including Lust for Lustre (2020), In Our Nature (2020), Continuity and Change, Future (2019), Pure Contemplation without Knowledge 7, 8, 10, 11 (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019), Collective States (2018), Distillation: A Tribute to Howard Taylor (2018), Antipodean Encounters: Western Australian Artists & Taiwanese Culture (2018), A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth (2018), Stations of the Cross (2017), Scene (2016 & 2017), Canopy: Into the Forest (2014), and Florid (2014). As well as participated in group projects including: collaborating in the residency The Fabric of Us at Midland Junction Art Centre with artist Claire Bushby (2019). Mentoring emerging artist Madeleine Beech in the project Continuity and Change, Future (2019). Collaborating with Taiwanese community in Perth resulting in the 2018 group exhibitions A Portrait of Taiwan in Perth and Antipodean Encounters: Western Australian artist and Taiwanese Culture. Collaborating with artist Olga Cironis resulting in the exhibition Lines That Define (2016). Plus a group painting-based discussion project resulting in the group exhibitions Steal (2016) and Painting as an Artform (2015).
In addition Dare’s work is included in the Edith Cowan University, City of Joondalup, St John of God, Princess Margaret Hospital and Old Swan Brewery as well as other private and public national and international collections. Since 2008 the artist has been a member of Gotham Studios. She has participated in three residencies at Arteles Creative Centre (Silence Awareness Existence, Finland), Midland Arts Centre (The Fabric of Us), and Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (Interplay). The artist has has taught art in prisons, Tafe, Curtin University, Applecross Senior High School’s Gifted & Talented Program, Nascha Inc (disabilities services) as well as various public and private organisations and art centres.