These works explore the varying concepts of home. Is it place, our connection to it, comfort and safety or is it the memories that we create.
The Below is an interview with Cessnock Regional Gallery "Home" Exhibition curator Todd Fuller:
Fuller: In the same way that Mel references the objects we keep and collect around the home with their personal meaning, you seem to be creating an object to put on the shelf and connect us with something or somewhere else, where are you trying to take us in these sculptures?
Castles :I want these pieces to connect and overlay the history of Cessnock both personal and historical with each piece capturing the idea of a snippet of memory that will hopefully connect both locals and visitors in a shared memory of place.
As someone who grew up in the Hunter Valley, your work really does remind me of home, where do these images come from?
These images are from archive images of the collieries surrounding Cessnock many of which have closed down, these are then intertwined with images land division maps promoting Cessnock as the ideal place to call home. After the collieries closed there was a massive population drain. I’m interested in what happens to home after we leave or when it changes, the memories that persist after these changes.
Throughout your career we have seen you collage together not only images but memories, places and meanings, in the Home Heart series, we find ourselves gazing through a personal portal into a place we know quite well, what compelled you to start making works about this place?
Christian Boltanski is a great influence. In an interview he talked about the idea of collective memory, that he wishes to transcend the individual identity and create works that are shared cultural memories – while many of my works are personal I hope that part of their appeal is that it connects people through their memories.
Apart from local scenes, what else will we find weaved into this imagery?
The images also use personal diary and drawings from pervious works about home, its my way of injecting my personal story into the works
In that case, is home where the heart is?
Recently I travelled back to Orange where I was born and haven’t been back to since I was 10 – looking at my childhood homes which I had such potent memories of, failed to match the ideals of my childhood – the memories were much stronger than the house – so with that in mind I think that home is where the heart’s memories lie.
I always enjoy watching your fluid approach to medium and material, what would you call these unique objects?
Technically they are acrylic with a face mounted acetate print, but they are an amalgamation of drawings collage and personal reflection.
There is a window or mirror like quality in your work with drawings and collages suspended in space by acrylic. What is your interest in these suspended structures and forms?
That they seem like memories suspended in a specimen jar presented for our inspection, I love acrylic for how it can be layered, refracted and projects shadows but also its crisp clean properties.
How does this work (if at all) reflect your home or your own sense of place?
For me having grown up in Wollongong, a town both steeped in coal mining but also steel works, two industries that no longer employ as many people as they once did – I think its interesting to reflect on the process of what happens to a town once industry isn’t its main occupation. That its these memories and shared nostalgia that remains while a town reshuffles to find its purpose again.
Is there a message or idea that you would like the reader or viewer to take back to their own home?
I think that home is the memories that you attribute to it and hold dear, not always the structure in which they were made