Melanie Cooper graduated from North Adelaide School of Art in 1997 and was awarded a PhD in Art History from the University of Adelaide in 2017. On graduating from art school, Melanie sustained her practice by working as a freelance mural painter and later became a co-founder of 8 ply on the Sly. One of the outcomes of this street art collaboration was the acquisition by the Migration Museum in Adelaide of an embellished dress crafted for the statue of Queen Victoria in Adelaide’s Victoria Square. Exhibiting widely, Melanie’s work is held in collections both nationally and internationally. She is currently serving as state representative for AAANZ (Art Association of Australia and New Zealand) and is a committee member of AHCAN (Art History and Curatorship Alumni Network).
As an interdisciplinary artist, Melanie approaches her textile works in the same manner as her painting and drawing practice. Long preoccupied with exploring the fluid and shifting spaces that lie behind or between ideas, thoughts, action, and experience, Melanie’s work seeks to investigate and map out interior and exterior spaces as anchor points that mark her own passage through time. Absorbing elements of urban and natural landscapes, remnants of place and fragments of thought are absorbed and translated into the work as a range of surfaces that are built up with a mix of knitting, crochet, stitching, and rug making techniques. As an intuitive exploration and manipulation of materials, the physical process of making and painting mirrors the act of automatic writing where instinct and memory collide. The focused gestures of making embody the meditative labour of observance, rumination and performed remembrances. In this way, Melanie’s practice becomes an active resistance to loss and oblivion in a process that simultaneously expands on her understanding.
Melanie’s research interests are interdisciplinary and include representations of gender, sexuality, natural history, early modern evolutionism, and a growing fascination for iconoclasm and Contemporary art practices. Driven by an interest in eighteenth-century studies and Greek mythology, her PhD thesis is titled Beings of Nature and Reason: Mythological Masculinities in Early Eighteenth-Century French Art and Visual Culture. She has published articles both online and in print on a range of topics.