Veerle Melis is a Dutch self-taught textile artist with a background in Cultural Studies. Currently based in Brussels, her work can be seen as an ongoing meditation on the ingenuity of (human) nature and on what it means to create. In Postcards from Spain (2021), Veerle playfully reflects on her residency at Arteventura in Spain and develops a series of beaded postcards inspired by her interactions with this particular environment.
Through Objects: How did the idea behind ‘Postcards from Spain (2021)’ begin? Veerle Melis: In September 2021 I did a two-week residency at Arteventura, a Finca turned into an artist residency in Huelva, Spain. Usually, I make big works that are very time-consuming. So within this two-week time frame, I had to come up with something on a smaller scale. It was the right moment to do something with my fascination for bead weaving, which attracted me because it has a meditative, repetitive aspect, playful, figurative potential, and a grid-like quality. These are all things that come back in the majority of my work. Since this residency was not only a moment of inspiration but also of relaxation, new encounters, and experiences, it felt very much like a holiday. The other residents were lovely and became friends, and everything felt like a grown-up version of my adolescent camping vacations. That is how I realized that the works should become postcard-like souvenirs of my stay.
Through Objects: ‘As miniature mosaics, they show images of the inspiration I took from the environment and various interactions during my stay.’ Veerle Melis. Which aspects of the environment/ interactions inspired you the most during the residency? Veerle Melis: My everyday life takes place in the city, but I am very drawn to nature. Whenever I go on a camping trip I feel recharged and filled with new inspiration. I don’t know what exactly it is, but observing the behavior of insects, following the flow of a river, or stumbling upon makeshift shelters, gives me a certain sense of understanding of our world, and of how it unfolds. These natural unfoldings are, to me, as creative and instinctive as what I do in my studio. During my residency, I was very inspired by the estate we stayed on, the vegetation, and (traces of) the big and little animals that crept around. Also, the social aspect of the residency was very stimulating. We were 3 artists that didn’t know each other before, but who spent a lot of time together because we happened to be at the same place at the same time and wanted to have a good time together. It was quite special and spontaneous. They, together with other guests on the Finca, made my stay better than I could have imagined beforehand.
Through Objects: The overall composition seems to play with the idea of ‘place’, and ‘experience’, could you tell us a little more about the working process and how the place affected the final pieces? Veerle Melis: In this work, I portrayed small details and moments that, for me, captured the essence of my stay. Kind of like photo’s I would WhatsApp to my friends and family, or moments I would story on Instagram. Finding the scorpion in my room was one of these moments. It was a big one, about 10cm long, and made a strong impression. From that night onwards I scanned the room with a flashlight before I went to bed.
Veerle Melis: Like my methodology in general, I didn’t plan this work out completely before starting. The first captured postcard was a flower that caught my eye on the first day. Along the way, I picked up other emblematic moments, such as my friend holding a chicken during one of our walks to a neighboring Finca. The dynamic with my new friends and our engagement with our surroundings was an important part of my stay, so I couldn’t leave this one out.
Through Objects: Does this series work as a reflexive exercise on your own identity as an artist? Veerle Melis: Definitely! I don’t know if this answers the question, but I approach my artistic career in a both serious and playful way. By making postcards of an artist residency, I played with conventions surrounding artistic professionalism and leisure or hobby. Even though I worked quite hard (almost every day), my whole stay felt very childlike, crafting with beads in an environment that reminded me of my childhood vacations. I wanted to reflect on this feeling because I feel this childlike, creative mood is a valid aspect of the artistic experience, that is not portrayed a lot in the ‘serious’ art world.
In general, I see myself both equally as an artist and craftsperson. Through my textile works, I examine notions of decoration, use, and uselessness. That is why I am so attracted to making nets and decorative works like tapestries. Categories of art, craftsmanship, design and research don’t really matter to me. I like to see boundaries between these fields somewhat blurry.
|Postcards from Spain|
Materials: glass beads, nylon thread and metal rings
Dimensions: 33 x 46cm
Interview with Veerle Melis | Photography by Silvia Cappellari.