Carl Melegari

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About the Artists:

ARTIST INFORMATION


'I aim to explore, through the physicality of paint, the visual language of form and colour. Applying the paint both liberally and without reserve, I aim to create a figural imprint of the imagination at work, through the expressive qualities of the medium. By layering, stripping back and reworking into the paint, I strive to replicate the unmasking of self. In turn, I want to emulate the complex, shifting processes of identification that come into play between the sitter and artist, that are variable and interchangeable, forever in process.' - Carl Melegari



'Carl Melegari’s sombre, brooding nudes and portraits employ a radically sculptural mode of painting that subverts the traditional methods of representational art. Laying on thick swathes of deliciously viscous oil, Melegari’s canvases are defined by a distinctly textural surface devoid of linear modelling; human figures struggle to emerge from within the thick ridges of paint, looming from under heavy drips that appear perpetually in slow motion, forever edging further downwards along the canvas surface and yet going nowhere. A deliberately limited palette of muted greys and only sparing gleams of colour lend a tone that is at once melancholic, sepulchral, despite the busy surface texture. In this manner Melegari explores the existential concerns of the human psyche. Though his figures appear swept over as if pelted in rain – a comment on the weight and pummelling difficulty of simply living –, it is the subtle elements which wrong-foot the viewer; flashes of colour, glistening surfaces and the delicate interplay of light lends compelling and unexpected elements of warmth and affirmation. Indeed, while personally driven primarily by the possibilities of this unusual method, Melegari concedes that the core undercurrent underpinning these images is in actuality the portrayal of a subject “who looks to be searching for his or her soul”.

This body of work represents a new phase in Melegari’s technique informed by the physical circumstances of painting outdoors: “That taught me above all else the use of local colour and a rather muted palette, which I’ve taken with me,” he says. ”I certainly now feel more comfortable than ever before with my output.” Within this limited palette Melegari thrives on the intricacies of earth tones balanced by pale blue hue, lending an eerie sculptural quality to his images. His lone figures and indistinct visages stand in complete stillness, as if erected in outdoor settings and illuminated by the distinctive tones of natural light. Combined with a painterly technique that tends to obscure the linear features of his sitters and models, an unsettling effect is achieved whereby from a distance we can recognise the reassuring characteristics of a fellow human, though on close inspection the features appear worn away, eroded or even not fully formed: a primitive, undeveloped indication of human life that is far from comfortable. It is as if we have stumbled upon a recognisable human presence amongst a dimmed, decayed urban landscape, only to find it strange and alien. Here Melegari touches upon the realm of the uncanny; familiar yet threatening and unreal.

In regard to his philosophical concerns, the effect lends a timeless or ancient feel to figures sourced from the contemporary. Working from life models, Melegari envisages these contemporary bodies as historic or legendary characters; Lazarus, Icarus or Greek poets such as Meleager. His sculptural technique defies the linear depiction of distinguishing facial features, in this context resembling once great characters, now eroded by the ravages of time, and battered by today’s unsympathetic climate. The sculptural quality of his bodies in particular evokes the legendary Ozymandias; the hubris of an ancient great figure, now defunct and impotent. In this way Melegari contextualises the existential concerns of today – how despite our best efforts we remain destined to become solitary, immobile and alone – in a compelling interplay between the vitality of life and the inevitability of decay.

Yet colouring these melancholy explorations is an unexpected but compelling aesthetic beauty. Images of indistinct visages and figures emerging from the impasto paint work benefit from a heightened relationship with light. Melegari’s painting style requires him to lay on the oil thickly, applying greater mass or scraping away, owing more to sculpting to suggest representational forms than the traditional, single layer faceted approach more commonly used by contemporary painters. With such a textured, high relief finish, viewing the works from varying angles releases new tonal impressions as the light falls upon the rugged textures, glistening as if frosted. In this sense despite the sombre palette, the works appear fresh, still wet, or frozen in time, thoroughly evocative of the wintry urban outdoors. The figures appear isolated in their unforgiving, debilitating surroundings of ultimate stillness, while conversely conveying a vitality and vigour through the constantly glittering and glistening surfaces. Linking back to the idea of lost ancient greatness, the impassioned, vigorous yet entirely spontaneous application of paint represents the capturing of a personality or character at a single point in time; one split second to represent the entire history of the person shown. The permanence of this single representation itself, like the ancient figures, demonstrates once again the unforgiving nature of time, and how we will eventually become isolated and lost as time goes on.

Amongst the subtle greys and earth tones, our eyes become more attentive to streaks of bright colour, as if searching for signs of life in the frozen, immobile statues. We delight in the rare intensity of such flashes of pure blues or reds, their effect intensified by Melegari’s extremely economical application. Like the lonely figures, they represent a rare flash of life amongst grimness and unpromising settings, which can equally be seen as a positive affirmation, or a bleak outlook. This, in addition to the paintings’ textual qualities which strive to break from their two dimensional confines, the pieces are in actuality deceptively complex, and more rewarding for it. Indeed, Melegari himself declares “I often get asked if there is a message behind my paintings. What interests me much more is the paint itself and how it reacts with the surface.” The pieces demand close, quiet inspection, and are imbued with an unsettling power that is less immediate but more powerfully affecting than simple, easy representational painting.'

- Olivia McEwan, May 2014

Carl Melegari was born in 1959 in North Wales of Italian parentage. In 1981 he graduated with a degree in Illustration in Bristol, where he currently lives and paints. His work draws from sculptural influences, such as Manuel Neri as well as from colourists, such as Morandi. Carl frequently uses a monochromatic palette to create the idea that he is playing with the reduction of form. His muted palette also results in a sense of isolation and seclusion.

Carl's contemporary approach to painting explores both the human form and the urban landscape. He primarily focuses on semi-abstraction within the figure and has become increasingly fascinated by the versatility of oil paint. Often working from life and models, Melegari explores how the physicality of the paint combined with the density of pigment can give a sense of life radiating from the canvas: as if to evoke the vigour of the human form. His paintings focus just as much on the medium of paint, and how it reacts with the surface, as they do on the subject on the painting. The sculptural nature of the work is achieved by continuously accumulating and scraping back the paint, such that a figure emerges as if to suggest how the sitter themself has become enveloped and partly obscured by the energy of the paint.


Associated Exhibitions

AAF Battersea
18 October - 22 October, 2017
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AAF Bristol 2017
8 September - 10 September, 2017
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Carl Melegari
Transfiguration
Preview AAF Hampstead
20 May - 2 June, 2017
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London Hampstead AAF
10 May - 14 May, 2017
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Carl Melegari - Hidden Presence
29 October - 10 November, 2016
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AAF Battersea, Stand H7.

19 October - 23 October, 2016
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AAF Hampstead
16 June - 19 June, 2016
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AAF NYC - Spring Edition
Venue
The Metropolitan Pavilion 125 West 18th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues)

30 March - 3 April, 2016
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AAF Battersea
Join EM for the Autumn edition of the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park.
21 October - 25 October, 2015
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Realms of Figuration
A solo exhibition from Carl Melegari.
3 October - 17 October, 2015
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AAF New York City
EM returns for another edition of AAF NYC.
10 September - 13 September, 2015
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AAF Hampstead
Join Edgar Modern in June on Hampstead Heath at stand H7.
11 June - 14 June, 2015
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AAF Battersea, Autumn Edition
Visit EM at Stand H8.
23 October - 26 October, 2014
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AAF New York City
Visit us at Stand A19
24 September - 29 September, 2014
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AAF Hampstead
Join us on Stand H7
12 June - 15 June, 2014
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Figurative Journeys
2 May - 31 May, 2014
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20|21 International Art Fair
Join us on Stand 39
15 May - 18 May, 2014
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AAF Hong Kong
Stand B17

20 March - 23 March, 2014
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Carl Melegari
'Powers of Observation'
Contact the gallery if you would like to receive the online catalogue.

30 new paintings by this renowned local painter. Launches AAF Hamstead Heath.
22 June - 6 July, 2013
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Affordable Art Fair - Hampstead 2013
Stand H7
13 June - 16 June, 2013
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New Collection - 2013
Showcasing new work by gallery artists
26 February - 29 March, 2013
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Heads & Tails
10 January - 24 January, 2013
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Spring Show
Stunning new works now gracing the walls of Edgar Modern by artists Carl Melegari, Mungo Powney, Yvonne Coomber and Dan Parry Jones. Also featuring new three dimensional pieces from sculptors Mark Hall and Jenny Southam.
30 March - 30 April, 2012
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The Affordable Art Fair
Battersea Park, London
Stand E10

Brand new paintings for the show from Mungo Powney, Dominic Hills, Dan Parry Jones, Henrietta Dubrey, Carl Melegari and Andrew Weis
15 March - 18 March, 2012
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