By Penelope Hunt
Feedback, display and exhibition VCA Masters, 2014
“…place is something more often sensed than understood, an indistinct region of awareness rather than something clearly defined”
What initially strikes me about Melanie’s Lazarow’s work is its presentation of order. On the surface, the work appears to read from left to right like a complicated sentence or stills from an uncurled photographic or movie reel, laid out in order for us to forensically examine them – in order. I am pleased with this apparent structure because having watched this work develop for a while, I am always immediately seduced by the strong dominant colours, yet have never been able to understand their elusive, abstracted worlds. I am hoping to get beneath the surface.
I begin on the left at the ipad on the wall. As I watch this slowed down, overexposed white world unfold, I almost feel my own heart rate slow down. It is both meditative and intriguing. Figures glide past in a dreamlike state leaving slight trails of beautiful colour behind them. I feel like this is a state of mind rather than a place – slightly detached; present yet not quite engaged but fully immersed. I know that feeling or is it more the memory of a feeling. It is elusive yet palpable. Then the camera angle lowers and we are following water down a gutter but not a Melbourne gutter; a gutter from another place, somewhere else, a foreign place. Yet the more I watch it the more familiar it becomes because this is more representative of a state of mind, a fragmented memory, or a dream that I may have had and I have subsequently slowed down to it’s pace.
I then turn to the main wall and the film has stopped playing altogether. I walk along the wall slowly passing each image in turn, from orange through to green, to see if a sequential answer will be given. They have a painterly quality and present like miniature landscapes. I step back to view the whole…..California Poppies, with the intense clarity of orange in their petals – I am immediately transported to a shared house I once lived in in Richmond. My mind has wandered. Not because I lose interest in the work but because the abstracted images and suggestive narrative allow a freedom to move and wander off on one’s own fragmented journey.
I walk quickly past the images to see if speeding up the sequence, like Muybridge, will somehow animate them into revealing a truth. I catch a glimpse of myself, slightly distorted, yet absorbed, into the glossy, reflective surfaces. I peer in for a closer look and notice bubbles on the surface of a few of the orange images. I am either underwater or looking through glass. Either way the viewer’s gaze has been slightly veiled and what is perhaps being deconstructed is the haze of memory in order to reveal a true abstraction.
I am on a journey within a journey. The green reminds me of the moss which grows on grey sheets of rock behind waterfalls in the Otway Ranges. Water suggestively runs through this body of work and I realize I have floated away again, conjuring up not only the visualization but also the coolness and spray from the waterfall. At that point I hear, “Do you want to walk back to the square for a bit?” and I am once again brought back to the space.
The floor projection, filmed at nighttime, is grounded in the reality. The stone tiles meet with the concrete floor and faces are visible. Yet there is still a feeling of disconnect, of the observer. The tiles, people and Palm trees have taken us clearly on a journey to foreign lands, perhaps Turkey or Egypt. Everyone, including the artist, is seemingly moving through the crowd without eye contact or direction. “Do you want to walk back to the square for a bit?” is repeated as the video loops and a circular moment begins; trapped to endlessly navigate and wander within this space of otherness.
I look back to the ipad and it dawns on me that the dreamscape, the wanderings and the abstractions are actually all united in their internal and universal reflection of memory and place.
“The artist can evoke a place that will always only exist as a memory of another place in the mind of the viewer, because I think you need to have visited a place before you can really know it, and then only you will know it in that way. That is why place is so personal and intangible, but at the same time universally understood”
 Tacita and Millar Dean, Jeremy, Place, Art Works (London: Thames & Hudson, 2005).
 Dean, Tacita “Place.”