Dawn Mellor

Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), 2020

Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), 2020
Oil on canvas
152.4 cm x 101.6 cm
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About the Artwork

This special presentation encompasses a new body of paintings by Dawn Mellor. 

Mellor has been making images of public figures for over twenty years, often exploring ideas of identity, fan culture and status. For this new series, the artist has drawn primarily from British television legal dramas, in which Mellor’s recognizable protagonists – Marianne Jean–Baptiste, Daniela Nardini, Julie Walters – have been cast as members of an imaginary judicial system. 

Scaled slightly larger than life, Mellor’s subjects are formally dressed in court attire, but have been superimposed with barnacles, jellyfish and other invented sea creatures. At times, these translucent cowls appear delicately decorative, almost ceremonial; at others, they bind torsos and obscure the actor’s face.

The underwater courtroom might suggest collusion in a rotten, corroded performance of the law. However if Mellor’s sunken QCs are not idealised, they also are not obviously castigated. Instead, the artist’s surreal portraits are ambivalent representations of justice, morality and class. 

These works continue a long–term project focusing on creating paintings of multiple gangs of recontextualised TV and film actors playing characters dressed in work uniforms. The project began in 2013 with fictional art collective The Austerians and more recently Sirens, from which works were acquired by Tate Britain and included in the current display 60 Years. 

The Trials and Tribulations of Wet Horse Hair forms part of a larger body of ongoing work. The full presentation will be exhibited at Glasgow International, which is now postponed to 2021. 

Concurrently, Mellor’s first permanent public artwork George Michael TV Outside, a large–scale mural exploring the life of singer, songwriter and LGBTQ+ icon George Michael, is being presented on Kingsbury Road as part of the Brent Biennial. George Michael TV Outside is part of Studio Voltaire elsewhere, a series of ambitious offsite commissions taking place throughout London

Studio Voltaire has been supporting artists for over twenty years, through our renowned programme of exhibitions, performances, events and education projects as well as providing affordable studios.

We have gained a reputation for championing both emerging and underrepresented artistic practices, often at key stage in the artist’s career. These have included Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Phyllida Barlow, Ruth Ewan, Elizabeth Price, Jo Spence, Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan, Richard Slee and Cathy Wilkes.

The gallery also provides an important UK platform for international artists, often providing them their first-ever presentation in the UK. These have included Nairy Baghramian, Thea Djordjadze, Nicole Eisenman, Judith Hopf, Paulina Olowska and Henrik Olesen.