Artist Melissa Herrington never stays still for long. Step into her luminous Venice Beach home studio, where sunlight pours through reclaimed antique factory windows, and you will find the painter flitting from canvases tacked to the walls to others laid on the floor. There is poetic choreography behind her movements and in the broad strokes of color she applies with thick brushes or her own hands. And then there are the delicate motions she marks in graphite and charcoal, creating ghostly outlines enveloped in atmospheric hues. This daily waltz imbues energy into her abstract paintings, fusing color and shape through tactile gestures. “I want to evoke a sense of wonder as shapes emerge from abstraction,” Herrington says.
The artist gravitated towards abstract painting while honing her style at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Yet, however loose in form, her pieces remain rooted in the corporeal as they channel visceral movements and sensations. Penciled female silhouettes meander through her compositions, their lines breaking apart into chaos and joining again. “I see these deconstructed figures in flux, caught in the act of becoming and full of boundless possibilities,” she explains. Their life-sized scale “allows the viewer to feel part of the painting, like they can step into this world.”
Herrington uses color to conjure an immersive landscape with hues that “evoke certain types of memories and associations,” she notes. Blending acrylics, oils and loose pigments together, the artist superimposes layers of paint that shift from gossamer clouds to opaque stains depending on the light streaming into her studio, and carefully carves out breathing room by leaving portions of the canvas raw.
Though she sketches some ideas beforehand, much of Herrington’s work centers on spontaneous strokes and on witnessing how new elements interact with each other as she paints. “I’m never trying to be too precious when I work,” the artist explains. “I want to expose the process, the actual mark on the canvas.”
For her upcoming spring solo exhibition at Maddox Gallery in L.A., she plans to further “investigate color and form in large formats, and how my abstracted female forms move within the compositions,” Herrington muses. “I’ve always thought of my work as writing a book. Each exhibition is just another chapter to keep pushing the boundaries.”