Geoff Jaeger | Meeting Melanie
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Meeting Melanie

I first met artist Melanie Vugich through Lisa Doust, they’re sisters. Lisa is part of the GkJE collective; a writer, editor and publisher. One rainy morning at Tamarama Surf Lifesaving Club late 2011, Melanie and I found ourselves in adjacent stalls on a clubhouse open day.

Artist: Melanie Vugich

She was showing her paintings and I was sharing work from a recent photographic exhibition.

I’d joined Tamarama as a volunteer lifesaver in 2008, as fate would have it, the same year Lisa and I worked together at Qantas on two publications. It’s a curious world!

Melanie is curating GkJE 3 until 30 April, 2018. I interviewed her for the GkJE Blog.

Is art a full-time ‘gig’ for you?

Yes it is. I would eventually like to be only painting. It’s my absolute passion.

Ponte Vecchio
Melanie Vugich, 2017
Ink pen on paper
25 x 30 cm

When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?

I started drawing as a child of seven or eight. I would just draw everything. I then started painting in high school and never stopped. It was then I started working on fabric designs and ended up doing that in Italy for many years.

What mediums do you work in, and which do you prefer?

At the moment, only oils. I absolutely love working with oils. Being a fabric designer, I’ve worked with absolutely everything though. Gouache – I always travel with it – and fine ink black pen are favourites.

Tell me about your subject matter and how it varies.

Usually things that are around me or places I’ve been. I love to do interiors or still lives. I’m currently working on several still life pieces after a trip to New York last year.

I visited a 93 year old friend just outside Boston in New Hampshire. I took photograph after photograph and can’t stop painting them.

I also love painting Australian flowers, they’re incredibly sturdy and beautiful to paint.

Kangaroo Paw and YSL Book
Melanie Vugich, 2017
Oil on wood
45 x 60 cm

How do you approach a work, and how long might it typically take to complete?

I always set it up in my mind before painting on the canvas. I paint in acrylics first then go over with oils. I dig away at it for a day or two, working in blocks of hours. Usually by the third day it’s done.

I can’t stand leaving things unfinished. I have a three-day maximum length of time on one piece. A lot of my drawings I do at night. I can’t really paint at night, so I lie on my bed and draw.

You lived in Italy for many years, did that change your work?

I was there for 24 years and very involved with fabric designing. Back then I would collect an amazing amount of art books for research. It was just so exciting for me – and necessary – when you have to research a new theme for each season.

And Italy, being what it is, you’re surrounded by beauty and art – particularly in Florence where I lived and worked. I think all those years in Italy influenced my palette as well – you know, the colours of Italy. I just love those old-worldly pieces of furniture. And I love chairs.

Gorhams Room
Melanie Vugich, 2017
Oil on wood
30 x 30 cm

Which artists do you admire most and why?

The first artist I really fell in love with was Matisse. I loved all his colours and his subjects. And now, there are just so many. Milton Avery for his colours. David Hockney for how prolific he is. Not one particular artist right now.

Has Instagram changed your public profile?

Amazingly so. Instagram has just been incredible. I was part of a group show with Graphis Gallery in Woollahra and picked up by Fenton and Fenton in Melbourne through Instagram. Galleries start following you as well, like Walcha Gallery Of Art, for example.

Platys Gialos
Melanie Vugich, 2017

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I’m working on some illustrations for Hotel Ravesis in Bondi, which will go into their hotel rooms. I’m also completing some sketches for a designer scarf company called The Artists Label.

I always have a painting on some commissions going on as well. At the moment, I’m working on some commissioned illustrations for a private client.

Where would you like to have your next exhibition?

I love the Melbourne art scene and would love to somehow exhibit there.

Interview by Geoffrey Jaeger for GkJE.

Blog Image Reader’s Corner  – Melanie Vugich, 2017