EMBODIED EARTH

Ten years ago I made a radical and unexpected change in my artistic practice through tending an olive grove in Greece and developing an immersive, embodied relationship with the natural world. My artistic practice became rooted in its rhythms, cycles and processes, in synchronicity with the seasons, the rising of the sun and the ecological and geological processes of erosion and regeneration. I explore these processes through clay, charcoal, digital and moving image. Making takes place where raw materials are sourced, on a shoreline and olive grove in Greece. In using natural materials the product of one cycle becomes the raw material of the next. The elemental forces, expanded awareness and appreciation of the natural world are integral to my creative processes. It is raw, spontaneous expression that fires my creative energy. Allowing chance and imagination into my artistic process, the unexpected happens.

Extract from book ‘WHAT’s NEXT? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art’ by Linda Weintraub 2019:

“By equating the physicality of the human organism with the physicality of non-human forms of matter, Mellors integrates the locale into her conception of ‘self’. “ “Mellors presents a vivid example of the neglected sensual and perceptual attributes as they unfold in time and space. Because bodily generated exploration is active and personal, information- gathering ceases to be mere data – collection. It is enriched by immersion, connection, and attunement …..and conveys the Eco Material belief that such deepened awareness leads to attending to the vitality of the planet and its inhabitants.”

Extract from ‘An exotic Journey into the Commonplace’ by Linda Weintraub . Published in Artizein: Arts and Teaching Journal, Vol 2 issue 2. November 2017:

‘Rachael Mellors revels in the sensuality of physicality. Her romantic impulses are fulfilled by embracing the planet’s material treasures with erotic intensity. The exuberant clay sculptures she creates are small enough to nestle in the palm of a hand. In addition, they are charged with the powers of her creative partners in the vast eco/bio/geo/hydro forces that abound in Gargarou, Greece, where she spends part of each year. Mellors’s creative process exemplifies full sensory immersion into the material conditions inherent to this seaside location. The region is known for olive groves that perch on cliffs above the sea. Achieving ‘muckro’ intimacy required replacing five standard studio art conventions:

Industrially manufactured art mediums are avoided because they prevent sensual engagement with local materials. Instead, Mellors gathers clay directly as it falls from the eroding cliffs, welcoming the shells, stone fragments, and debris that lie embedded in it because they augment her work’s connections to its site.

Hand and power tools are dispensed with because they interfere with the tactile sensations her materials offer. She forms the soft clay by hand.

A studio is rejected because a roof and enclosing walls isolate occupants the dynamic conditions of wind, temperature, season, and time of day. Mellors locates her forming processes where the clay in her hands was harvested – on the beach or in the shallow waters of the sea. On the beach, the wet clay may be rolled in the sand. If the forming takes place in the olive grove, it may be coated with dirt or ash from previous fires. These added materials melt during the firing, glazing the surfaces with colors and textures that resemble pottery shards on the beach, although the surfaces of the shards were ‘glazed’ by weather, sea, and sand.

Self-expression is moderated by responsiveness to surrounding conditions. Mellors’ sculptures materialize the confluence of her body with the particularities of wind, tide, season, erosion, and sedimentation.

Process, too, is reconfigured to allow the sea to factor into the sculpting of her artworks; the sun to contribute by drying the artworks that are laid on the beach; and olive trees to contribute their pruned branches as fuel for firing. Ultimately, these procedures replenish the olive groves because Mellors locates the firing there so that the nutrients produced during the firing return to the soil in the form of ash. In all these ways, the creation of art is synchronized to the generative cycle of trees, the annual cycle of seasons, and the geological processes of erosion and decomposition.’

Extract from essay ‘The change, the current, the eternal universal swerve’ by Trond Arnesen 2012. Associate professor of biology at The University College of Trondheim, Norway:

‘Her figurines had a kind of stationary movement in them and a kind of form that reminded me of the way the waves and the wind shaped the rocks and stones on the beach here. It was as if she had tried to achieve with her hands and fire what Mother Earth needs millions of years to accomplish. So this quite slow process of digging out clay, forming it and burning it for a day can be seen as human mind in nature imprinted in a shape and an earthly process speeded up by hand and man and fire.’

PROFILE

1978 -1981 Royal College of Art. MA Ceramics

1975 -1978 Portsmouth Polytechnic. BA Fine Art

1974 -1975 Portsmouth College of Art

Publications

2020 “Building from the corona crisis towards a sustainable future” Art & Essay prizes, Sustainability First

2019‘What’s Next? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art’. Linda Weintraub. Intellect Books

2017 An exotic Journey into the Commonplace’. Linda Weintraub. Artizein: Arts and Teaching Journal, Vol 2 issue 2.

Self development training

1999 – 2008 Earth wisdom ,movement, dance, meditation workshops

Retreat

2003 – 2015 set up Gargarou Retreat offering 3 month retreats for artists and writers in the natural beauty of the Peloponnese, Greece.

Teaching

1994 – 2008 Head of Arts Programme. Community Education Lewisham, London

1982 – 1994 Ceramics and Pre-Foundation Arts Tutor. Community Education Lewisham, London

Exhibitions (group, unless stated solo)

2020 Photo Fringe OPEN20 MOVING IMAGE Selected Artists

2020 Sustainability First Art Prize Shortlist Gallery (online) ‘Bridging corona to a sustainable future.’

2020 The Poly Falmouth ‘Embodied Earth’ solo

1996 Ruskin Gallery Sheffield ‘Animal Farm’

1996 Bluecoat Display Centre Liverpool ‘Animal Farm’

1995 Crafts Council Gallery London ‘Out of this World: the influence of nature in crafts and design 1880-1995′

1995 Manchester City Art Gallery ‘Out of this World’

1995 Oriel Cardiff ‘Out of this World’

1994 Rye Art Gallery Sussex ‘Selected Artists’

1990 Prema Arts Centre Gloucester ‘In the Eye of the Beholder’

1988 Liberty’s London ‘Royal College of Art Ceramics 150th Anniversary’

1987 Ceramics 7 Gallery London ‘Bird Beast and Man’

1986 South London Gallery ‘ South London Open – works on paper’

1986 The Minories Colchester ‘Rachael Mellors Ceramics and Drawing’ solo

1986 Stafford Art Gallery ‘Ceramics’

1986 British Crafts Centre London ’Figurative Art Exhibition’

1984 New Metropole Arts Centre Folkestone

1984 7 Dials Gallery London ‘Out of Clay’

1983 Whitechapel Art Gallery ‘ Whitechapel Open’

1982 Cale Art Gallery London ‘Rachael Mellors Drawings on Paper and Clay’ solo

1982 British Crafts Centre London ‘Big Pots’

1982 St Paul's School London ‘Natural History Drawings’

1982 British Crafts Centre London ‘Planters and Vessels’

1980 Sudbury Hall Derbyshire ‘Sudbury Ceramics 1980’

1980 Royal College of Art Gallery London ‘Reliefs’

Awards

1981 Royal College of Art Prize for Drawing

1982-84 Crafts Council new craftsman grant

1986-89 Digswell Arts Trust Fellowship

1986 Artist in Residence Harwich School

Crafts Council Index of Selected Makers

Collections

East Midland Arts

Suffolk County Council

Southern Arts

Hertfordshire Education Authority

Essex Education Authority

Private collections

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