Graduate Profile: Melanie King (2013)

Name: Melanie King

Year of graduation: 2013

Lumen Studios, Crypt Space

Lumen Studios, Crypt Space

What are you doing now?

I am doing a lot of things! I have begun an MPhil at the Royal College of Art, where I’m focusing on what I call “celestography”, which means “to draw from the heavens”. In my practice, I am working on many different ways of interacting with celestial objects through the use of film, photography and sound. 

After graduating myself, fellow MA Art and Science graduate Louise Beer, and Raymond Hemson set up a collective called Lumen. In 2013, Lumen began holding exhibitions about astronomy in churches to raise a dialogue about how humanity understands existence. Since then we have begun a Lumen residency in Atina, Italy, which has been an amazing experience. We provide artists with accommodation and a studio, organise trips to observatoriesand arrange exhibitions in Italian churches. Last year was absolutely fantastic, and we’re really looking forward to the next residency in September. 

Coming up in May, we are also organising an open call for projections and light installations themed on the subject of “astronomical light” at Stour Space in Hackney. 

We are also holding regular exhibitions and events at our studio, which is based in The Crypt of St John on Bethnal Green. Our next event is 5 May, and involves a number of performances and sound installations around the theme of delay.

Myself and Louise Beer run a curatorial project Aether, which began at the University of the Arts London Showroom Gallery. Since then we have organised an exhibition with the Jarvis Dooney Galerie in Berlin and on 29th April, we’ll be opening another Aether exhibition at Imperial College London.

Aether UAL Install Shot

Aether UAL Install Shot

What have you done since graduation?

In 2015, myself and fellow MA Art and Science graduate Jaden Hastings collaborated on a world record sized cyanotype in Goa, India at The Story of Light festival. This was a fantastic experience, as we got to live and work in India for three weeks, meet lots of people from around the world and had some opportunities to hang out on beautiful Goa beaches! 

Following this, myself, Constanza Isaza Martinez and Andres Pantoja collaborated on another world record cyanotype which was 15 metres by 7 metres across. This was part of the On Light series of events organised by The Wellcome Trust and University College London.

In 2015, I was also lucky enough to undertake a residency at Four Corners Film in Bethnal Green, who helped me to create a new body of work on the subject of astronomy. This residency led to the development of my research towards the MPhil I am now studying. 

World record cyanotype

World record cyanotype

What did you work on whilst undertaking the MA Art and Science?

My research on the MA Art and Science was focused on the subject of the bubble as a metaphor for the brevity of life, in both the history of art and science. I compared 17th Century Dutch Vanitas paintings to inflation theory and multiverse theory. This is a body of research I am still developing, as I’m now interested in how scientists explain theories which are unrepresentable.

The MA also gave me an opportunity to develop my darkroom skills. On the MA, I made a cyanotype a day for 250 days as I wanted to capture light from the Sun on to photosensitive material, as the Earth spun on its axis. I also did the Alternative Photography short course with Guy Paterson at CSM, which taught me how to use liquid light, gum bichromate and Van Dyck Brown in a very short amount of time.

For the CSM degree show piece, I created daguerreotypes of soap bubbles and worked with the Aaronson Noon glass-blowing studios to capture the shape of my breath in 3 dimensions.

Bubble aether

Bubble aether

What did you gain from doing the MA Art and Science?

The MA in Art and Science is completely unique, as we were given regular lectures and workshops with artists and scientists. We had the opportunity to participate in a project with the MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit at Oxford University, which then gave me the confidence to approach other scientific institutions to work with.

The location of the MA in London is crucial, as London benefits from a wealth of scientific institutions, lectures, workshops and events that aren’t really found elsewhere. The optional MRes Theory and Philosophy lectures by Chris Kul Want were offered to us, and these lectures were fundamental for the development of my research to MPhil. Overall, the MA Art and Science helped me to understand the value of practice based research, and is something that will be of value for the rest of my life. During the course, I worked as a (paid!) intern for The Arts Catalyst which gave me an insight into working in the field of art and science.

Practically, I also found a great part-time job in 2013 with the Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) based at London College of Communication with the UAL agency ArtsTemps. This job supported me through the difficult post-graduation period but I have also learned a lot about contemporary photography during my time there. 

In May 2015, I organised the Shadows symposium on traditional photography processes at Camberwell College of Art alongside PARC, and they have been very supportive about my creative endeavours outside of working for them as an administrator. 

Planet Mercury Daguerreotype

Planet Mercury Daguerreotype

What did you do before joining the course?

I moved out of my home at 17, so my journey to the MA course wasn’t completely smooth. I worked full time in depressing office jobs in my home city of Manchester until I was about 20, and completed an Access Course to HE in Art and Design at Stockport College during this time. In retrospect this time was great, as it taught me that a full time soulless job in an office is my idea of hell and that I should do everything in my power to avoid it! Instead, I try to spend as much time as I can on my passions.

After my Access Course, I then went to study a BA in Fine Art at Leeds College of ArtDuring my BA, I experimented with lots of processes such as printmaking, casting, darkroom photography, drawing, painting, collage and sculpture. As a result of this BA, the multi-disciplinary approach to art is now quite natural to me. 

I’m glad that I did not focus on one specific practice, as I now feel that I have freedom to approach artistic concepts in a number of different ways!