Artist from the chaos
Flesh consumes itself
Earth swallows all.
Melanie Ashton was born of the rain and the cold, damp earth of Northern England. She is a self-taught doll maker, author, illustrator and photographer, a wanderling, a dreamer, a collector of bones, a lover of rust and dusty sequins and a delighter in twisted humour and unfortunate tales. When she’s not in her studio you can usually find her scouring the hedgerows and forest floor for treasures of snail shells, moss, skulls, feathers and rusty bits of this and that.
Her path has been a varied one, between its twists and turns and the meanderings of a restless soul she has been carried country to country through moor, forest and city, each experience has left an impression upon her work. Tangled threads of dream and memory are woven, cocoon like around her and there in her solitude Melanie embraces them and coaxes them to emerge.
Her body of work is inspired by worlds glimpsed but rarely ‘seen’, by death and transformation, the wild woods and the lonely moors, sorcery and myth. It mourns the forgetting of the wild within and the ever decreasing wilds of nature but yet, there is still maintained within its delicate feral quality, a tentative optimism for wild’s return.
Perhaps, one still night you will follow gossamer threads of your own. Follow them to the dark, quiet places beyond the twilight. The place where the moon is a pale sliver and to it the wind whispers it’s tales.
RESIDENCY 2020 - BECOMING CHAOS AGAIN
During the period of one year I took a sabbatical from my doll making work and engaged in an artist’s residency at Artopie in Meisenthal, France. During this year I began to develop a death awareness project in mediums previously unfamiliar to my art practice.
I began by creating “death” masks on living subjects as a meditation on death, transformation and the human disconnection with the natural world and natural processes. It wasn’t long before it it was clear that I would need to involve life size sculptures and proceeded to teach myself simple casting techniques and begin experimenting with the use of natural materials .
At the end of the residency I exhibited my final sculptures in a show entitled Redevenir Le Chaos/ Becoming Chaos Again. On the opening night I collaborated on a performance with French-German artist and performer Yannick Unfricht , below is my artist statement from the exhibition.
“I created this work as a love sonnet to death, our ever faithful yet unloved and unwelcome companion through life.
My work focuses not on the moment of death itself but is an exploration of the process of death and the disintegration as one body merges into another, be it plant, animal or human as the body gradually becomes earth. In this aspect we are all equal, our decay nourishes regeneration, taking on a new form, a new life. My work explores the forms prior to this rebirth and considers the state in-between, when a form is neither fully one thing or another. Each piece itself is a meditation on death through the process of working with the bodies of plants, trees and insects without which these works would not have been created.
The root of this project is a desire to increase death awareness in a modern culture where there is widespread fear of death, of the dead and the dying. Where speaking about death openly is virtually a taboo and where death is often viewed as a failure of life and becomes the receptacle of our fear of the unknown.
My aim is to treat death with tenderness and reveal the uncommon beauty in this process and metamorphosis. My work offers an opportunity for the viewer to examine their fears and think how different our approach towards death and dying could be if we were to meet this inevitability with acceptance instead of denial. Would that then affect how we live our lives? I invite you to consider how different our funerary practices would be if we considered that our deaths could nourish the ecosystem, support a forest. What happens to our worldview if we consider our bodies to be an offering to the Earth in gratitude for the lives she has birthed and supported? How would it feel to embrace and welcome death openly at our tables, to thank the death that nourishes our bodies?”
Melanie Ashton, October 2020