Opening Night Friday September 23rd 6-8pm
The cicada symbolises rebirth and immortality because after surviving underground for a long period of time it emerges and ﬂies into the sky. I have used this symbol because I sense that at this time China was at a crossroad; it had to be reborn and yet it is immortal. Additionally, look what is has become now. The plum symbolises courage and hope because it blossoms ﬁrst and bravely stands against the dangers of winter. I see this as the plum tree obviously being more hardy than other stone fruits over there? I just take it as symbolising perseverance. I am not intending to portray China as a culture that is so unique that it must rise above all other cultures. I am trying to present the idea of a snap shot of the protagonists of the era incorporating elements unique to those personalities just before a huge cultural shakeup. I have been fascinated since the age of 7 about the isolated exoticism of the Chinese culture and how it was in some ways unchanged, and for so long, unlike the how the West continually changed, for the better yes, but China was way ahead, more than the West in the beginning, if you look at the chronology. That was a long garbled sentence.
This exhibition features work from the new series The Cicada and The Plum. This series concerns itself with the exploration of the transition of a four thousand year old culture into the modern day era, namely that of China. I have been strongly inﬂuenced by antique photographs of Chinese society that reveal a culture steeped in tradition but on the very verge of change. I particularly like the protagonists of the era, The Dowager Empress, Pu Yi, and Wanrong. These ﬁgures are rendered realistically and also in a stylised mode, showing inﬂuences from the work of Gustav Klimt and Byzantine mosaics, and feature strong use of golds and silvers and Chinese symbolism. The exhibition also features work from other series, for example the highly stylised Roses and Poppies series.These works are a meditative response to nature, where the eye is drawn all over the tactile surface of the painting. In both series the ﬂoral forms seem to ﬂoat over the surface creating a sense of serenity and peace. Other works are from the Magic Hill series which are a highly stylised approach to landscape painting of the area, particularly that of Canowindra and Cowra. Very much inﬂuenced by Byzantine mosaic, the rendering of the eucalypts employs jewell like medallions that shimmer with the extensive use of metallic paint.
Melissa Barber is a self taught artist based in the Central West town of Canowindra. She has been painting professionally since the age of 24, and now has paintings in private and corporate collections within Australia and internationally. She began her career undertaking sketched and painted portraiture, then in 1999 she opened her ﬁrst gallery and cafe in Canowindra called The Gallery Koolabah Cafe which enabled her to develop her painting series on a wider platform. Then in 2014 she reopened at Finn’s Store in Canowindra in the main street. Currently she works from her home studio and collaborates with participating galleries from time to time.
She works in series format painting several paintings from different series at the one time. Her work combines stylised abstraction with the readily identiﬁable. Deeply inﬂuenced by Japanese and Chinese art for their use of negative space versus detail, ﬂat colour and strong use of golds and silvers, her paintings reﬂect an aesthetically decorative, yet spiritually meditative response to nature.