Melanie Beresford in Conversation with Noella Lopez

Melanie Beresford in Conversation with Noella Lopez

Melanie’s breadth and variety of practice and the choices she makes to tell her stories do not cease to amaze me. For Beresford, the world is in a state of constant flux where loss and rebirth lay close at hand. She likes people and she likes to tell their stories. She also enjoys reminiscing about her childhood memories, her family home, her own story growing up, coming of age and evolving in the world too. She uses symbolic materials such as wool, human hair, dowel, wood, fire as a representation of the passing of time.

Welcome to the whimsical world of Melanie Beresford at times free, sometimes fun and often intriguing where trees are made of human hair and float in space, her family ties dissolve while balloons fly in the sky and women boast bright coloured woollen hair.


  1. Your work is often autobiographical and the study of human behaviour and more specifically our involvement in the continuous cycle of attachment and loss are topics you are particularly interested in. How did this approach inspire you for ‘Forest of the Inside’?

Forest of the inside came about as I found myself drawn to the versatility of human hair as a medium, as a subject and as a symbol. The more I worked with hair, the more I fell in love with the material and its innate potential to engage with all people. Not only is it something that we all naturally possess (and therefore already have a tactile relationship with), but this grossly intimate material carries with it a seductiveness as well as a truly repulsive quality when detached. As I collected the hair from hairdressers, friends, and stranger’s donations, I became acutely aware of this visceral physical reaction people have towards cut hair upon entering my studio. I therefore found it important to subvert this repulsion by employing the aesthetic appeal of nature. Made almost entirely of human hair, I felted each base and braided branches into existence with the help of a little wire.

As humans who are not immune to the loss experienced in relationships, human hair became my metaphor for examining the effects of separation. The continual growth and severing of our hair mimicked the often destructive cycle of emotional ties. And just as hair is constantly growing and being cut, our relationships are perpetually evolving or decaying.

The sculptural installation Forest of the inside (originally shown at Hardware Gallery in 2010) transformed the gallery into an intimate repository for my own harbored loss. As the viewers were invited to travel between the hanging trees, at first their curiosity drew them in for a closer inspect before the abject nature of the material became clear to them and they swiftly pulled away. It was this interaction with the work that I found most fascinating, as it echoed the way we often deal with broken relationships.

  1. With ‘Unnatural High’ you chose to create a video to tell your story, quite a different medium for you. Can you tell us how this came about and how this medium allowed you to approach and articulate this artwork?

During that year, I was blessed to have the resources to explore new media, and learn new techniques, which is something I think every artist should continue to do. Whilst my background is in painting and drawing, I have found that at times other mediums are better suited to conveying certain ideas, and it’s important that I give my ideas the best chance to materialize themselves.

Unnatural High is a video I felt I needed to make in order to process my own loss regarding my parents’ separation. Just as throwing ashes over the ocean provides those left behind with an opportunity to put to rest their loved one and their own loss; this video is an expression of mourning, of my letting go and moving on from the past. I sought to reclaim the control my parents had when they chose to separate when I was a child, by reversing roles, and this time directing their actions. Dressed in their wedding clothes, my mother sits overlooking the ocean with red helium balloons attached to her hair before my father enters the shot and begins cutting her hair. As each bundle of hair is cut, the helium balloon and the wind carry it away over the ocean. This is an act which denotes my parents’ years of growth together, slowly being severed over time, until they make the final separation. The use of video allowed me to explore time and its powerful effect on relationships in my work rather than being limited to conveying simply snapshots.

  1. Your exploration of loss has become more universal through your own research of people’s attachment to possessions and place. Your installation ‘Sanctified by Fire’ seems to epitomise this research. Can you share some insights about this installation?

Along with most of my work, Sanctified by Fire finds its roots in my own story, in this case - a house fire growing up. As I sought to understand the impact such loss has on people, I researched the subject more broadly and interviewed people regarding their own experiences. This was important to ensure statistics did not supersede the human voice and personal experiences, both of which are central to my practice.

When a back-burn was performed locally, I spent time considering the implications of such a fire. Whilst its aim was to protect the neighbouring homes, there was always the possibility that it might not be controlled properly and in turn do the opposite. The fire brigade was literally ‘playing with fire’. Ultimately this particular fire served its purpose but it ignited something within me, and a couple of days after the fire had been put out, I travelled to the devastated scene and collected samples of various burnt materials. These then filled the glass urns that sat within the house-like boxes elevated on table legs. As my childhood home had been a Victorian terrace that had stained glass and leadlight windows, I chose to similarly decorate the exterior of the house-shaped box frames with such designs. These unique designs served to commemorate the houses that were protected due to this back-burn as well as the bush that in a sense sacrificed itself for the houses.

  1. Following on from these bodies of works what is your next step? Tell us more about your next explorations, your interests and inspirations, and what you are currently working on.

In the last few months, I have been working on a range of different projects including drawing birds and other animals which have been a lot of fun.  I’ve had the time to re-explore certain techniques such as sewing that I haven’t utilised in my practice for some time. I’ve since returned to my first love, portraiture, and I am currently working on a new series (see a sneak preview in my video). As someone who has often used bold colours, I’ve been trying my hand at muted colours and patterns. I’ve been enjoying mixing new colours and coming up with exciting patterns for the background that will help draw the viewer into my work. As for what I’ll do next, time will only tell.

Melanie Beresford 2014


Forest of the Inside

Unnatural High

Sanctified by Fire

Watch Melanie in Her Studio in her Latest You Tube Video CLICK HERE  

0 Comments To "Melanie Beresford in Conversation with Noella Lopez "

Write a comment

Your Name:

Your Comment: Note: HTML is not translated!

Enter the code in the box below:

By posting this comment, you agree to abide by Noella Lopez Gallery Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.