Paul Melser – 45 Pictures of the Body

Paul Melser - 45 Pictures of the Body at Aratoi Museum of Art & History Masterton July 2010 reviewed at

Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art & History July 2010

By David Famularo

This exhibition follows hard on the heels of rugby photographer Peter Bush’s exhibition Hard on the Heels.
The two shows are complementary but not necessarily complimentary, given that some of the images in Melser’s montage of paintings, which cover most of one wall of the gallery, have been taken directly from rugby matches and virtually all the images in Melser’s show depict violence.
Then again, Bush would probably admit that rugby is mostly built upon controlled violence, intimidation and aggression.
But it would be a mistake to assume that Melser is making any sort of political statement.
In fact, by choosing an almost Pop Art ethos – one of the characteristics of which was to remove almost all meaning from any image it appropriated by repetition (Warhol’s car accident prints being echoed in this show) – Melser has removed almost all the original context and meaning out of what will be faintly recognisable media images to most viewers.
However, I would not put 45 Pictures of the Body in the same category as Pop Art as its concerns are quite different to that movement’s reduction of any image to nothing more than consumerist iconography.
This one work, made out of many, is more like a meditation.
I love the title, but what is the “body” Melser is referring to?
Is it the individuals in the images (and the cars they die in and the weapons they kill with)?
Rather, perhaps, the body in question is “an aggregate of persons, things or substance” (Oxford Dictionary).
In other words, it’s the corporate “forming one body of many individuals” which interestingly, is a near neighbour in the dictionary of “corpse” which is, of course, a dead body.
Perhaps these images depict the individual body’s relationship to the dysfunctional corporate entities of which they are a part – these images being violent tears in the corporate whole which strives to maintain itself as a living entity, but which is permanently shadowed by the threat of disintegration and death.

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