Melanie King studied BA (Hons) Fine Art at Leeds Arts University, and graduated in 2011.
She continued with postgraduate education and in 2013 she completed her MA Art and Science at Central St Martin’s and was a nominee for The Lowe & Partners NOVA Award 2013. Melanie has also founded the London Alternative Photography Collective and has co-founded a space art collective, Space Is Ace. To support her own practice and these projects Melanie works for an agency specialising in museums and has been working at The Royal Festival Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum. She also works in The University of The Arts London offices with the agency ArtsTemps, as well as writing articles and blog posts. We interviewed Melanie to find out more about all of her exciting projects, and how it all began.
What do you remember about your time on the course?
The Fine Art course at Leeds Arts University really helped me to develop real skills in craft and making, due to the excellent workshop facilities, in particular the casting workshops.
My experience at Central Saint Martins definitely helped me to develop my ideas conceptually, but Leeds Arts University really taught me the value of making. My tutors had defined crafts, such as drawing, painting and sculpture, which I think was important. I was particularly inspired by Stephen Felmingham’s ideas about Nuclear Culture, which I further explored on my internship with The Arts Catalyst.
Can you tell us more about your own artistic practice and interests?
I’ve always explored scientific concepts within my arts practice, however during my second year at Leeds Arts University, I really began to investigate the seedlings of my projects now.
Since childhood, I had blocked out thoughts about infinity and space as it used to make me feel anxious and ill, however on my second year of Fine Art, I considered that facing my fear could actually result in a great art project.
I began investigating what the shape of the universe could actually be, and then became obsessed with the idea of a finite yet boundless universe in the shape of a sphere.
Spheres are consistently present in both micro and macro worlds, due to the structural efficiency of a spherical shape, and so I began to think of spheres in the natural world, which led to my research on soap bubbles.
I began using soap bubbles and spheres in my work, and for my degree show piece, I captured a soap bubble in photogram form which resembled the gaseous properties of planets such as Jupiter.
For my MA Art and Science thesis, I began researching how soap bubbles were represented in both artistic and scientific fields. I realised that scientists were also describing the universe as a quantum fluctuation from nothing, something that appears as quickly as it disappears, much like a soap bubble does. My research on the MA covered many subjects including neuroscience, theories on consciousness, existentialism and the history of photography, but my work has consistently maintained an interest in the ephemeral nature of life. I often work with traditional photography methods, and have used daguerreotypes as a medium because when you approach the image, it appears and disappears as you pass it.
I sometimes work in 3D, and recently took a glass blowing course to create glass bubbles, which have ultimately captured the shape of my breath.
Can you tell us about the projects you are involved in and how they came about?
When I graduated from the MA, I was nominated for awards and approached for certain projects, but none of them came of anything. I realised that I wasn’t going to be given opportunities so I decided that I had to create them.
Firstly, I created a Space Art Collective with 3 other MA Art and Science graduates with an interest in astronomy. The collective is called Space Is Ace, and have had two successful exhibitions since graduating. As a collective, we are bored of the tired private view format and are keen to create something more engaging and immersive, so we have incorporated sound artists, projections, performances and light installations into our shows.
We are an international collective, as two of our members hail from Italy and Los Angeles respectively.
From the last Space Is Ace exhibition at Doomed Gallery in Dalston, I then had the idea of curating an exhibition called “Glitch”, which celebrates analogue technology in favour of our fragile and complex nanoscale technology, which none of us can understand.
Alexander Gilmour, a current student of BA Fine Art at Leeds Arts University, was an artist who really inspired this project with his work on corrupting images using notepad files.
At this event, there will also be interactive installations of modular synthesisers and chiptune artists performing music on circuit bent game boys.
Secondly, I had been frustrated at the difficulty and expense of learning alternative photography processes, and was keen to create some kind of forum where people could share their existing ideas and processes. From here, I created the London Alternative Photography Collective which meets at Double Negative Darkrooms in Hackney once a month. I curate three talks for each meeting and choose people that I find exciting. This has led to a residency at Double Negative, and has led to interest from Silverprint and Film’s Not Dead. I think the success of this project, is that it provides a platform for other artists to inspire one another, which of course, leads to some really interesting work!
Finally, I am now curating an exhibition alongside a current MA Art and Science student, with the Wakehurst Millennium Seedbank at Kew. This will involve an exhibition at Kew, and a Summer exhibition in London. The project explores the potential life encapsulated within a seed, and explores the comparisons between the germination of a seed and the collaborative nature of multi-disciplinary projects.
What has been one of your proudest moments to date?
I would say it’s somewhere between getting a Distinction on my MA and looking around during the events I’ve created and thinking “I made this happen!”
So what’s next?
At the moment I am currently investigating how to extend my studies to PhD level, as I would like to research the parallel histories of photography and astronomy. I am also keen to take my projects outside of London to The North, as I am from Manchester and really loved living in Leeds!
For more information on all of Melanie’s work, visit her website.
Images above: Nestria, 2011 from Photogram