Melissa Gordon is a British and American painter, printmaker, writer and editor. Her paintings investigate the behaviour of gesture. She has had recent exhibitions: "Liquid Gestures" at Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, UK, "Resistances", Galerie Stigter van Doesburg, "Iris", Large Glass Gallery, London with Alice Channer and Andrea Zittel, "The Story of MB by Jef Geys", Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium, "Heavy Metal Parking Lot", GARAGE, Rotterdam and "The Mechanics of Fluids" at Marianne Boesky Gallery, NY. She has exhibited widely including at The Vleeshal, Middelburg, Eastside Projects, Birmingham, Kunsthal Oslo, Stedelijk Museum, Museum Dhont-Dhaenens, Belgium, Kunstmuseum Bonn, and WIELS Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels. She studied at Rhode Island School of Design, Cooper Union and then at De Ateliers in Amsterdam, and has lived in Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Brussels as well as New York. She has taught previously at Goldsmiths University, and at the Salzburg Summer Academy and has been a visiting teacher at, amongst many other institutions: Staedelschule, Frankfurt, De Ateliers, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf Academy, Dusseldorf, Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, Royal Academy, London, Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, LUCA School of Art, Brussels, and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA. She was the winner of the Pollock Krasner Award in 2021, and her book ‘Painting Behind Itself’ was published with Revolver Press in 2016. Her essay ‘The Embarassment of SUCKCESS’ was published with Kunstinstituut Melly in 2020. Her writing has been published in a number of publications including ‘Painting: Funny Peculiar’ with Slimvolume Press including Amy Sillman, May Revue, Texte Zur Kunst, Girls Like Us, and an upcoming book ‘Acts of Painting’ (2022).
She has been involved in feminist publishing activities, including co-editing the magazines LABOUR (2011) and PERSONA (2013) with the writer Marina Vishmidt, and recently collecting ten years of feminist activities with over 100 collaborators into the website: www.alivingarchive.com
What I am working on now / current interests
I have been working on a number of exhibitions in the past year, which include both institutional exhibitions in which I exhibit paintings alongside architectural interventions, group shows, and curated exhibitions in which I create environments for other artists work to be exhibited on.
For my recent exhibition Liquid Gestures at Towner Gallery, in the UK, presented a large selection of a body of paintings titled ‘Female Ready-mades’ that I have been working on for several years. This body of paintings takes the painting surface as a wall, on which gestures, information, motifs, and silkscreens of ‘real objects’ ‘hang’ and show gravity on their surfaces. Often the paintings surface assembles information on certain topics, such as female artists whose gestures have been overlooked and accumulated in art history. For the exhibition at Towner Gallery, I hung my paintings on a complex series of architectural displacements including the real one-to-one floorplans of the apartments of the artist Elsa von Freitag Lorginghoven, whom many consider the ‘real’ author of the Fountain, and a rubbing of the entire frontage of my studio building, and large silkscreen works made by painting on specific floors such as my kitchen with large mops, printed on raw canvas and hung like tapestries. The various registers of painting, scale, and dimensions of information overlapped in this exhibition.
The recent group show Iris at the Large Glass in London arises out of a discussion and a curated exhibition titled ‘Transitive Objects (Coral What)’ in Dusseldorf in 2021 in which I made a large wallpaper that interacted with invited artists and chosen works by Marie Lund, Alice Channer, Katja Mater, Eva Berendes and Chris Evans. This process has now been mirrored in an exhibition in Zurich titled Time Lock (Zoom In) which I co-organized with the Swiss artist Annaik Pitteloud in which various understandings of ‘modeling’ take place, and a solo booth at June Art Fair. These curated shows and spaces take the idea that the conversation between art practices and objects can have a close, touching and overlapping relationship. For these exhibitions, and for my exhibition Modelling a Painting: an accumulation of information on liquids and gestures in time Manifold Books in Amsterdam where I invited the artist Eileen Quinlan to exhibit a show on my work, I created silkscreened grid wallpaper which also has real physical elements that are exposed and printed: scarves, plants, off-cuts of sleeves, clock faces. This aspect of my practice: a conversation- based curatorial way of organizing shows arises out of both a deep engagement with the practices of my peers, and an interest in a ‘de-centralized’ understanding of how we read gesture and authorship in art contexts. For example, in these shows above and the exhibition The Mechanics of Fluids that I curated in 2018, I not only have themes such as female artists at the forefront of the notion of liquidity in abstraction, but I focus on interpersonal feminist support networks.
In my ongoing painting practice which involves silkscreen, I am primarily interested in an experimental development of surfaces which communicate research: research into material, reading, histories, characters. I think of a painting surface as a crime board or place for investigation- literally and figuratively. I do not distinguish between ‘figurative’ and ‘abstract and believe that the language of painting applies to all forms of making. I also write extensively about painting and am working towards a collected writing.
Pedagogical approach and expectations of students
As a professor and teacher, I am excited to speak to all students, regardless of the medium in which they work, and I have extensive experience talking to students with varied, wide practices. My specialty is painting, for those students who wish to speak with a practicing painter. For my group critique course, I will meet six times per term, and we will work together in both one-to-one tutorials, as well as larger group discussions. I will be teaching in person in Oslo, and we will sometimes meet as a group online just to say hello, to communicate some information and to discuss readings together.
I am a painter, so I am excited to work together on developing a language of painting or surface making together: what do terms like flatbed, formless-ness, all-over, action-mark, social network, autonomy, authorship, value, expression, composition, etc., all mean and do in your work? What other language can we use to describe your gestures? My research, including a recently completed PhD has been primarily on ‘Liquid Gestures’ and what that means is an understanding that our gestures have autonomy unto themselves: that meaning arises between gestures, and that gestures have a behavior that arises at a moment in time, and can change and morph according to other situations, relationships and moments. I would like to work with my students on understanding how our gestures are behaving now, and how they might behave in the future, and what they might have do in different situations, dialogues, environments and times.
I will be teaching a course this year that is a two-part exchange with students from Helsinki Art Academy and their professor, the Swedish painter Sigrid Sandstrom. Six students from Helsinki will visit Oslo in September, we will all work together in Seilduken, focusing on creating surfaces in experimental painting mediums, and discuss our work together, see shows, and hang an exhibition. We will visit as a group Helsinki in January 2023 and work there towards hanging a show in the gallery of the Helsinki art school, as well as see shows and get feedback from both myself and Sigrid.
I will also be running the Color Lab again this year: The color lab is a place on the 4th floor of the MA building which is filled with various mediums, materials and paints that can be used to experiment with before students invest in purchasing materials themselves. Each year one or two students open the Color Lab on a weekly basis for other students to come experiment with materials. We host workshops periodically such as learning how to mix oil paint, tempera, gesso or even fresco. This year I will also invite a few speakers and trips to artists in Oslo. I am available for individual tutorials, if you are not in my group critique class, I try to meet as many students as I can in person, so please email me and I will post tutorials each term. In general, as a teacher, I try to be clear about what my expectations are each year, and with your work. I give students a full schedule at the beginning of term, and try not to change anything, and expect students to show up to that schedule. I expect students to have work to present at each group critique and to put the effort into speaking about each other’s practices.