AboutMark Melvin's first solo exhibition held at Galerie Sherin Najjar in 2011 was entitled Remember to Forget. Featuring a range of drawings, video and neon pieces examining the human condition through the lens of popular culture, he used wit and wordplay to draw the viewer into a hypnotic world of stuttering gestures and bizarre repetitions played ad infinitum. In his second solo presentation, Melvin repeats these themes with new works mimicking their predecessors in both medium and motivation. The title of the exhibition can be seen as a direct reference to the previous show: Remember to Forget is now matched by Forget to Remember. The idea of return is developed further as both titles appear on the opposite faces of a single clock installation Time Piece (Bury Your Head in the Sand or Bury the Sand in Your Head). This piece points to the artist's attempt to evoke a state of déjà vu. The clock as a timekeeper is mimicked by the kinetic work Half Life, in which a motorised butterfly wing stutters intermittently as it is illuminates by a spotlight. Its man-made existence marks out different increments of time as those to which we are accustomed. It is clear that Melvin seeks to pose questions regarding the existential self and the manner in which we travail in vain against the course of time. In 2011, a video installation Tomorrow Remember Yesterday (A Pair of Jacks) showed a darkly comic memento mori in which footage of Jack Nicholson in films released decades apart were played alongside each other. In 2013, the location of this installation is now taken by the video work Ravel/Unravel (Decade) in which broken loops of a film showing the artist rolling up and down his polo neck over his face are accompanied by a Ravel String Quartet referenced in the title piece. In this work, the artist makes a dual video self-portrait playing two near-identical sequences shot ten years apart. The older artist trys to keep step with his younger self.
Melvin uses looping, wordplay, deciphering and erasing to discuss themes of time, hope, crisis and mortality. A series of drawings made of texts are rendered in ink on pencil guidelines. Those fragmentary pencil marks not obliterated within this process adhere to the paper as memorial to the creative process. Both text and language are exposed as being unreliable; what is perceived to be solid truths are shown to be in constant flux and change. The motif returns in his lightboxes, whose abstract form is dictated by their titles Fail Forever and The More I Look Ahead the More I See Behind. Melvin asks us to think about personal aspiration as both a negative and positive motivator, an inherently human pursuit in view of the ultimate teleology of our lives. This is wittily summed up in the neon work Ladder/Track, which presents us with a neon ladder minus the majority of its rungs. A ladder to nowhere, its glowing uprights and blackened lower rungs conjure up overhead images of a light coming from a railway tunnel. Is Melvin asking whether there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or is he submitting to the glare of an oncoming train? The answer is unclear. As with all Melvin's work, we can be sure of nothing and nothing is quite what is seems.
Based in London, Mark Melvin (*1979, Bury, UK) belongs to a new generation of young British artists. His work has been selected for numerous awards and is represented in private collections and museums worldwide. His video Tomorrow Remember Yesterday (A Pair of Jacks) was recently on view at the Museum Huis Marseille in Amsterdam.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication containing an essay from the writer Francesca Brooks.