Melissa Anderson Scott

Review: Persistent pull

In her forthcoming exhibition at Oedipus Rex Gallery, where Melissa Anderson Scott has shown consistently since her debut in 1991, a sumptuously detailed fishlure dangles in anticipation above a deep red glossy enamel bowl. This is the kind of snare of enticement, a teasing and elusive offer to temptation that we have learned to observe and recognize in her work.

The lures or artificial flies are apparent almost from her first showings and it is interesting to contemplate the subconscious (and perhaps even unrecognized and certainly unarticulated) connections formulated in the artist’s mind, when we know that Melissa Anderson Scott’s painting Richard, which won first prize in the 1994 Nola Holmwood Portrait Award, is a portrait of Richard Lewer.

Lewer’s recent ‘works on sandpaper’ at Oedipus Rex shared that element of enticing narrative possibilities evident also in Anderson Scott’s oeuvre, where the viewer is invited to read the works as ‘diary’ – a descriptive term possibly suggestive of psychologically based interpretations.

The lure, in various forms of disguise, was there again in her 1999 exhibition Cracking the Code. A piece of red string, for instance, held tantalizingly taut by a pinched finger and thumb on one side, and stretched, quite unexpectedly, as though into infinity, out beyond the bounds of the rectangular (unframed) canvas, appears again later in the sequence stretched in linear fashion around the walls of the gallery.

As part of a socially interactive composition of numerous small paintings which viewers are encouraged to reassemble in whatever order or grouping they find most alluring or meaningful, the string is part of the ‘code’ of a personal narrative based on memories, experiences and the families’ movements around the world as migrants, settlers and travellers.

In this way, a Vermeer-like tiled floor (which could also be read as a game-board used to while away the time of passage) may make subconscious ‘connection’ with a sister who lives in the Netherlands. Equally it may elicit strong emotion to a recounted tale involving Ellis Island through which Anderson Scott’s families would have passed as migrants to America. ‘When I got to the building, there were the tiles, black and white. They gave me the cold shivers.’

Riemke Ensing
Art NZ No 95, Winter 2000: Persistent Pull
Scan of original review: Persistent Pull (264kb)