Colour and optical vibrancy animate Melbourne artist Melinda Harper's remarkable oeuvre of abstract works developed over three decades. While Harper is best known as a painter, this survey reveals a surprising diversity of practice in its inclusion of drawings, collages, screenprints, experimental photographs, painted objects and exquisite handmade embroideries.
Harper's first exhibition was in 1987 at Pinacotheca in Melbourne and she was a leading member of the Store 5 artists' group in Melbourne (1989-1993). Initially small in scale and simple in composition-as much due to economical as aesthetic considerations-her paintings have since increased in size and become more complex. Among those included in this survey are pared-back Constructivist paintings on wood from the late 1980s, mid-1990s works inspired by the decorative elements of Persian miniature painting, and recent large canvases which provide stunning new geometric and colour variations on her characteristic abstract themes.
Typically in Harper's works, forms similar in type-blocks, stripes, circles, triangles or variants of these-are amassed together in striking compositions of seemingly endless variety, from the harmonious to the cacophonous. Harper builds upon early twentieth century abstraction and later generations of modernists-her intimate embroideries and screenprinted fabrics (produced with fellow artist Kerrie Poliness) paying particular homage to modernist women artists. Her investigations of colour and form are also intensely felt, visual responses to lived experience, embodying in her words ‘the act of looking, the obvious, the precise and the precious.'