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Melina Nicolaides

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Melina Nicolaides makes abstract paintings, which in a way is like saying that a musician plays a particular instrument -and naming it as a piano will tell you almost nothing about the music being created. Here in the 21st century, the practice of abstraction has joined older modes of pictorial intentions like portraiture or the landscape as an aesthetic vector, a point of departure. Abstraction began as the willful exploration of non-objective form, and has developed, through various modernist styles and postmodernist analyses, into something broader, less programmatic, and much, much wilder.

An abstract painting may be about telegraphing the purity in geometric form, registering the anxiety in a self-conscious gesture, or exemplifying the folly of reifying an ideal of power. The work Melina Nicolaides is doing is about moving past the edges of the intellect and the discrete bubble of the personal into a far less certain, much larger sense of being. Her brush is tuned to whispers and suggestions from an Encompassing presence as an act, in Jaspers' words, of illumination. - Illuminating the Encompassing is obviously no common task. One of abstraction's most demanding graphic potentials is exactly that of referring to a vastness that the picture plane takes in only a discrete part of. The problem is in how an artist receives authentic inspiration from such an infinity. Melina's response has been to take her directions stroke by stroke, hint by hint. The paintings paint themselves from the inside out, in effect, not as illustrations of emotional states, but as radically mutual decisions made between the artist and what is irresistibly present beyond her. Like sailing in a stiff wind. - …..As illuminations, these paintings might be seen much as we might look at a photograph of one of theTitanic's enormous engines spotlighted on the ocean floor: an utterly improbable image, of surprising

scope and complex beauty, and as a particularity shining forth out of a far deeper continuity of being. - Why is this ‘new’ painting, though? Isn't contemporary painting supposed to be about a signature obsession, like dolls or antique animals, fat women, fake Salvador Dalis? It has been, certainly, but what, in Melina Nicolaides' works, will be alive in a painting of 2004 to a viewer in, say, the year 2147, will be the fabric of its enduring dream. El Greco's “Toledo in a Storm" still projects its inner passions because of the intensity of his interiority. These paintings are certainly contemporary, even as what that word is coming to mean - that they possess timefulness, deep, old history, as well as the sharpness of our present early 21st century uncertainties. Melina's works carry the tension of her own intents - the yearning for a farther shore, a more fundamental depth, a wiser core - that, in the qualities of her inquiry into the Encompassing, will radiate it. - J. W. Mahoney. - an artist, writer, and independent curator who serves as Washington's Corresponding Editor for “Art in America." He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.


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