Mel Prest paints abstract landscapes using repetitive lines that seemingly recede and advance, giving the impression of motion sweeping across the panel. At once the work appears formal and controlled. However, closer inspection reveals slight imperfections as each line is painted by hand to align and crisscross together, suggesting spaces, realms or planes with structures that bend, fold and stretch.
Prest’s color choices are intuitive, inspired by what she observes in nature and her immediate environment. For example, she will use colors characteristic to the San Francisco Bay Area where she lives - silvers and gray tones from the ubiquitous fog giving off reflective light or veiling bright colors. Her red-orange hues are from recent spectacular California sunsets (a result of recent drought and wildfire conditions and atmosphere pollution). The green and blue shades are taken from the natural surroundings during her artist residency at Willapa Bay in coastal Washington state.
In addition to applying acrylic paint, the artist sometimes incorporates metallic, glow in the dark and interference colors that shift depending on the viewer’s position when looking at the work, and change depending on the condition of the light cast upon it. Yet most engaging is Prest’s signature use of linear brushstrokes to form patterns that vibrate with electrifying energy.
Prest takes inspiration from artists such as Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bridget Riley, Ann Tritt, and Robert Irwin, and the use colors and shifts of perceptions recall Minimalism, Op art, and Light and Space movements.
About the Artist
Mel Prest received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from Mills College in Oakland. She has exhibited her work in several solo exhibitions in Texas, North Carolina, and northern California. Most recently, her work was featured in a 2015 solo exhibition at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary in Oakland, which represents the artist. She has been included in group shows throughout the United States, and abroad in Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Japan. In addition to Willapa Bay,
Prest was awarded an artist residency at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Vermont Studio Center, an Affiliate AIR at the Headlands Center for the Arts, among others. In 2016, she participated in the Wassaic Artist Residency (New York), which included an artist grant.