“My gateway into the arts was through being raised on TV, films, video games and comic books,” says Oklahoma-based artist Mel Arzamarski. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I first visited an art museum.” With a somewhat less of a traditional artistic upbringing, this never stopped Mel from pursuing her interests. “Originally I had thought that I would get a degree in illustration, but after taking foundations in painting and working with oils for the first time, I realised that what I really wanted to do was make interesting images that gave people a cause to look at them. From then on, I was a painter invested in making images.”
Having completed her bachelors of Fine Arts in 2016 in New Haven and now currently working towards a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Tulsa, it’s clear that her quest for the arts is one that is continuing to evolve. Mel has also displayed her work at various shows, including her thesis exhibition You Look Down in the Basement, I’ll Look Up in the Attic, plus the Gussman Juried Student Show at The University of Tulsa, as well Got it For Cheap – part of a travelling series of group shows based in Philadelphia, titled Pilot Projects.
With an aim to create art with purpose, Mel spends the majority of her time in the studio. Here, she flits between digital and analogue techniques, typically painting between four to eight hours a day listening to the soundtrack of “podcasts, audiobooks, silence and music”. Her creative process usually begins with a couple of sentences in a notebook, then she’ll take to the internet in search for images that she can manipulate, alter and collage. “I am most attracted to bright colours, patterns, gradients and strong qualities of light,” she says. “These elements are often the first in an image. After I have completed an image I will then transfer it to a panel and begin to paint. I like the idea of the surface of a painting holding onto time, and so I give a lot of care to the surfaces of the paintings. I usually alternate between painting and wet sanding the images.”
Mel’s work tends to evolve around a heavily saturated, hyperreal landscape that effortlessly blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality. Whether it’s a cup of noodles paired with a pastel-soaked antique rug, a luminous foal trotting past what seems to look like a row of toilet cubicles placed within a grassy woodland, or some hands soaking in a sink with fire for nails, each painting beckons with the surreal. Where she gets her inspiration from, however, is far from made-up. “I often feel like I am following breadcrumbs,” Mel tells It’s Nice That. “[These breadcrumbs] lead me to larger ideas that have been unfolding in my head over a period of time.” Sounding not too dissimilar from the Brothers Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel, Mel lays out these breadcrumbs in order to navigate through her surroundings – as well as her personal experiences.
“Often these ideas are much more personal than I had even wanted or intended, but I have found that even if the reality of the content is unknown to the viewer, the presence of my personal specific narrative is important to an image being successful,” she says. “Like with good fiction, if there is truth present in the work, then there is more satisfaction for the individual engaging with it. And I would say, even more so in works of fiction, truths are important because what surrounds the truth is made up.” She concludes: “So in my made up images, what I am looking for is some kind of truth.”