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Somerset artist Carl Melegari who is showing a new collection of work in Clifton this month

PUBLISHED: 18:12 14 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:21 20 February 2013

Somerset artist Carl Melegari who is showing a new collection of work in Clifton this month

Somerset artist Carl Melegari who is showing a new collection of work in Clifton this month

In these days of an increasingly digital artworld, it is rare to find a painter so interested in the possibilities of the age-old medium. Enter Somerset artist Carl Melegari

Gettingphysical


In these days of an increasingly digital artworld, it is rare to find a painter so interested in the possibilities of the age-old medium. Enter Somerset artist Carl Melegari who is showing a new collection of work in Clifton this month

Words by: Carol Burns

On first viewing, the work of Somerset artist Carl Melegari it appears monochromatic, but on closer examination, the full range of pigments reveal themselves. His visceral paintings draw you in, ambiguous but energetic figures almost appear, dissolve, reappear and disintegrate before your gaze. Melegari himself, talks about exploring how the physicality of the paint and how density of pigment can give a sense of life radiating from the canvas.
Melegari primarily focuses on the semi-abstraction within the figure and says he has become increasingly fascinated by the versatility of oil paint. He is emphatically not a portrait painter, but it is the figure that inspires his recent works often using his teenage son as the subject.
As he works, Melegaris canvases bear witness to a kind of alchemy: surfaces are created, lost and rediscovered through layers of oil paint. This takes a certain amount of bravery, to purposely lose something in the hope it can be re-found, he admits. But to him, the medium of paint, and how it reacts with the surface, is as important as the subject of the painting.
In the early stages of his work, paint is applied liberally, allowing spontaneous drips, spots and splots to literally and symbolically mirror the personality of the sitter, and the emotional place of the artist himself while creating the work. Melegari may then return to the work days later, scraping back the semi-solid paint to add and subtract layers, sometimes literally attacking the surface with (palette) knives. The result is a varied and endlessly fascinating surface, in places thin runs in the paint are evident, elsewhere the impasto is thicker than plaster work.
Im more interested in light against dark, so theres always a contrast, he says. If you look closely at the paintings theres a complete spectrum of colour but I try to keep them fairly controlled you might read a painting as blue, but there will be other colours there.
I dont class myself as a portrait painter, Im not trying to capture a likeness, its more about what I see, its semi abstract, Im looking at blocks of shapes within the face, not painting an eye or lips. Im trying not to make the figure recognizable, but I think you can see the continuity.
There is more going on here than just surface. There is an expressionistic tension in the work. Through the veils of layers, a figure or object does emerge as if to suggest how the sitter has become enveloped and partly obscured by the energy of the paint.
Based in Bristol, Melegari has exhibited across the world, including New York, Italy, Paris and London, and although an artist for more than 30 years, and teacher for 15, it is in the past few years that his work has entered the international stage with exhibitions this year in America, Canada, and now his home county of Somerset.

Carl Melegari is on show now until 18 November at Innocent Fine Art, 7a Boyces Ave, Clifton, BS8.

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