April 11, 2016

Melanie Daniel's solo exhibition “Cabin Fever” opens at Chelouche gallery

Melanie Daniel's solo exhibition “Cabin Fever” opens at Chelouche gallery

The popular Canadian idiom, ‘cabin fever’, refers to a seasonal anxiety and madness caused by prolonged confinement in a cramped or remote place, traditionally during the winter. For Daniel, restlessness is a perennial state of mind, fear the default, and stems from the knowledge that home and country is a vulnerable if not illusory construct, a kind of self-made bubble.
Daniel’s current work embraces the idea that art should be shared when it occurs at all stations in an artist’s life. This time around, her output is more impromptu and humble in scale and media, hopping straight from the dreaming-bed to the paper. Her paintings are figurative, narrative, hallucinatory. The influences in her work are many, from Daniel’s own cryptic North American motifs, to children’s illustrated books and cartoons, Bosch, Dada and Surrealism, and news coverage from the fraught sociopolitical environment. But all this is transmuted into a personal iconography and a cast of characters in a landscape humorously described by writer Megan Abrahams in a recent review of Daniel’s work in ArtPulse Magazine, as “Emily Carr on acid”.
Defoliated stick trees pop up like scarecrows next to couches and washing machines, in open fields, always out of place but always framing a scene. They seem less like a species meant to stand in for Canadian-ness, than a spliced specimen, hardier and stripped to simpler design, ready to survive. The stick trees appear in the video “Cabin Raqs” (cabin dance), echoing the angularity of the mural’s geometric patterns, and caging in the sinuous choreography of dancer, Orly Aroshas.
Although not characteristic of Daniel’s gregarious and densely constructed oil compositions, these modest watercolours definitely feel like part of her universe. Personal experience is infused with dark humour and intense inner life, as her characters embrace the too-often insipid face of domesticity and seek other diversions in the muted violence of blacker fairytales. She captures the mood of the moment, flashes both enchanting and forlorn. Other surprise ingredients thrown into the mix: deer people, decapitated snowmen, armed bunnies, belly-dancers and looming drones. Daniel is depicting a world in which the manic show goes on.


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