Dyeing the Liminal: Melinda Heal
Exhibition explores uncharted territory
Textile artist Melinda Heal brings a contemporary Australian approach to traditional Japanese dyeing techniques to create a remarkable exhibition currently on show at Newcastle’s Timeless Textiles Gallery.
Heal’s work takes a contemporary approach to the traditional Japanese resist-dyeing techniques of katazome and yuzen. These methods are steeped in Japanese culture, with their history tied to the kimono industry.
“I am applying them to uniquely Australian scenery, flora and fauna,” Heal explains. “My pieces depart from tradition, utilising semi-transparent fabrics to create a sense of depth, space and movement.”
The resulting works, in the Dyeing the Liminal exhibition, inhabit a space between two visual cultures. Complex edges, overlaps and intentional empty spaces depict the liminality of the natural world.
Heal is interested in the natural boundaries of mountain ranges and rivers. She has also explored the marginal position of a subject like weeds, native to one place and a pest in another.
Her multi-layered pieces, dyed on light silk, focus on the true-to-life details of the natural world. Bold silhouettes and washes of colour create a hybrid between flat artwork and installation. They seem to move with the viewer, almost shifting in the breeze. Her Beautiful Weeds series of works present the strong form and colour of these maligned and conflicted plants.
“Weeds can teach us a lot about resilience and cooperation,”: Heal says.
In her more recent work, on show in this exhibition, Heal has created pigment colour from locally sourced stone. She uses these unique local palettes to dye work onto washi. An artist-in-residence program in Nagano, Japan last year further refined her use of this method.
“In a time of hard-line absolutes and the rhetoric of black and whites, I’d like to encourage the exploration of complexity and of the transitional places in between.”