Originally from December 2010
The catalog for my first exhibition to feature paintings on glass included the following review by Sanda Stanaćev Bajzek, an art historian and critic specialising in the Croatian naïve tradition. The catalog cover and her Croatian text are pictured below with the English translation following after.
"Melanie Hodge's paintings are a pleasant surprise, undoubtedly the discovery of an artistic talent. Imaginative, creatively playful and freed from the need to follow other avant-garde trends which ignore the aesthetics of beauty and do not believe in the spiritual and healing power of pictures. At first glance her pictures give the impression of a playful game and draw the viewer into an adventure - an illusion of fabulous childhood and a wondrous world of innocent storytelling and fantasy. Filled with "living" homes, joyful characters and gentle animals, her pictures exist as frames extracted from a cartoon, from a cheerful children's story. And, as in that kind of creative work, her drawings are simplified and placed in some indefinable dimension of space where the shapes can follow rules of her own creation.
"Her paintings are similar to, but not trying to be, illustrations. They spring from a narrative foundation in the service of a visual interpretation of those themes which inspire Melanie, where the subject has been crystallised as an idea for an artistic story in her rich imagination. In an interesting way she shapes the individual events, the recurring patterns and the conditions of life such as natural phenomena and the architectural symbols of those places through which she has passed. The charm of her paintings is that they are freed from the pretentiousness of great art and their charm does not stop because of their sweetness or the amateur nature of her talent. With an exceptional feeling for structure and the use of artistic elements and means, Melanie expertly transforms concepts into a clear visual image, building her story on recognizable symbols. Simplicity allows for easy interpretation, whilst intense colours and the arbitrary treatment of motifs - simplified and somewhat childish - frees the painting from realism and from explicit imitation, making the picture please to the eye. Ornaments and the denial of straight lines are characteristic of her artwork, which is full of details, but unobtrusive order as well. The surface of the paintings is often dominated by concentric curves, tendrils and arabesques. All of this testifies naturally to Melanie's contacts with Slavic folklore, but also to a sensibility for perfectly curving, spiral forms. However, the colours carry Melanie's artwork. They make the motifs more intriguing and symbolic. They build the tissue of the painting. Their relationships are delicate, but contrasting at the same time. The colours are clear, expressive, and stimulating. They describe the shape and amplify its meaning.
"And in her developing love of artistic expression Melanie pauses for a while at her interest in watercolours. This technique is very effective in achieving subtle nuances between colours and a structurally solid basic composition. Watercolours are also practical and easily transportable which cannot be ignored when considering the artist's peripatetic lifestyle. In the end however, they were insufficient for her affinity for and love of detail. Her compositions were becoming ever more crowded with details; therefore Melanie reaches for a technique that is especially devoted to details, that is oil painting on glass in the Croatian naïve manner. The abundance of details, two-dimensionality, simplification of shapes and free colour-relations are the elements that link Croatian naïve painting with Melanie's affinities and considerations. The basic formal feature in building the painting is based now on the additive method, enumerating the details, which become simplified symbols. And another connection is reflected in her fantastical style, where it meets with elements from legends, fairy tales, romantic stories - in an ingenious interpretation of life. Under a layer of glass the colours shine stronger, the detail is given it's full meaning and the form becomes more playful. The landscape becomes the main subject and inspiration. And everything is reality and illusion, description and association, narration and symbolism, all at the same time. What Melanie's brush paints is a world of poetic stories, a world of blazing fantasy which, inspired by reality and fired by imagination, flies up to the space between dream and reality."
Sanda Stanaćev Bajzek, 2010