Dawn Mellor: The Trials and Tribulations of Wet Horse Hair

This special presentation encompasses a new body of paintings by Dawn Mellor. 

Mellor has been making images of public figures for over twenty years, often exploring ideas of identity, fan culture and status. For this series, the artist drew primarily from British television legal dramas, in which Mellor’s recognizable protagonists – Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Daniela Nardini, Julie Walters – have been cast as members of an imaginary judicial system.

Scaled slightly larger than life, Mellor’s subjects are formally dressed in court attire, but have been superimposed with barnacles, jellyfish and other invented sea creatures. At times, these translucent cowls appear delicately decorative, almost ceremonial; at others, they bind torsos and obscure the actor’s face.

The underwater courtroom might suggest collusion in a rotten, corroded performance of the law. However if Mellor’s sunken QCs are not idealised, they also are not obviously castigated. Instead, the artist’s surreal portraits are ambivalent representations of justice, morality and class.

These works continue a long–term project focusing on creating paintings of multiple gangs of recontextualised TV and film actors playing characters dressed in work uniforms. The project began in 2013 with fictional art collective ‘The Austerians’ and the ‘Sirens’, from which works were acquired by Tate Britain and included in the current display ’60 Years’. The Trials and Tribulations of Wet Horse Hair forms part of a larger body of ongoing work. The full presentation was due to be exhibited at Glasgow International, which is now postponed to 2021.

This presentation aligned with Mellor’s first permanent public artwork George Michael TV Outside , a large–scale mural exploring the life of singer, songwriter and LGBTQ+ icon George Michael, which was presented on Kingsbury Road as part of the Brent Biennial. George Michael TV Outside formed part of Studio Voltaire elsewhere, a series of ambitious offsite commissions taking place throughout London.

About Dawn Mellor

Dawn Mellor (b. 1970, Manchester) has had numerous solo exhibitions in London, New York, Venice, and Brussels. Recent publications include Sirens by Dawn Mellor (Montez Press, 2019) and recent solo exhibitions include Sirens, Team Gallery, New York, (2017), What Happened to Helen?, Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, (2013), An Ecstasy of Purpose, Studio Voltaire, London (2010) and at The Migros Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2008). Their work has been shown at the Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany; The Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius, Vilnius, Lithuania; Limerick City Art Gallery, Limerick, Ireland; Museum Arnhem, Arnhem, Netherlands; MoMA P.S.1, Long Island City, New York; and Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Image credits

Installation view:

Dawn Mellor, The Trials and Tribulations of Wet Horse Hair, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire. Photo: Tom Carter

Individual works:

Dawn Mellor, Jocelyn Knight QC (Charlotte Rampling), 2020. Oil on canvas, 152.4 x 101.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire. Photo: Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Junior Crown Prosecutor Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman), 2020 Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Ruth Quirke (Sarah Lancashire), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Sharon Bishop QC (Marianne Jean–Baptiste), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, The Honourable Mrs Justice (Sonia) Sharma (Meera Syal), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101,6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Martha Costello QC (Maxine Peake), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Anna Forbes (Daniela Nardini), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

Dawn Mellor, Emma Watts QC (Julie Walters), 2020. Oil on canvas 60 x 40 in, 152.4 x 101.6 cm Courtesy of the artist and Studio Voltaire Credit Tom Carter

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