Behind the Seas: An Insight into Melanie Cosgrave’s Work

Winter Sand. Courtesy of the artist.
Winter Sand. Courtesy of the artist.

  Melanie Cosgrave, an Australian artist based in Dubai, is one of the artists Capsule Arts commissioned for Nikki Beach Resort & Spa. We were immediately attracted to her striking pieces and style, which fit Nikki’s overall theme perfectly.

We couldn’t help but feel intrigued and curious about her work, and wanted to know more. Melanie was more than happy to answer all our questions about her inspiration, her Sea Spray Series Dubai, her work process and her love for mixed media and large canvases.

The Pier Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 107 x 100 cm, Diptych. Courtesy of the artist.

The Pier Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 107 x 100 cm, Diptych. Courtesy of the artist.

You’ve lived and worked in Dubai for 10 years now, what influence has that had on your work? 

I develop my inspiration from day-to-day experiences; a huge part of my life in the UAE is spent near the beach enjoying the waters and sands, even in the hottest months! The serenity and tranquility helps clear my mind and allowed me to embrace my creative vision.

Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 180 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 180 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Your work fits Nikki Beach Resort and Spa’s look and feel beautifully. You seem to have a lot of artwork in that style and color theme, any special reason why?

The similarity was pure coincidence! However, like Nikki Beach, I aim to celebrate life everyday. You see that in the four main elements that I focus on and continue to appear in my work, which are: the sea, the sky, sand, and light. These elements provide me with endless inspiration, which is why you find them appear in my work from time to time.

Left: Morning Water. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 75 x 75 cm. Right: Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 90 x 90 cm. Both paintings courtesy of the artist.

Left: Morning Water. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 75 x 75 cm. Right: Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 90 x 90 cm. Both paintings courtesy of the artist.

Tell us more about your Sea Spray Series Dubai?

Sea Spray Series is a body of work that brings a common thread through a series of paintings about the sea in the UAE. The main inspiration, which you see reflected in this series, is offshore spray during Dubai winters. The colours come from the water foam on the sea’s surface.

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, by the sea. I think this brings an underlying surface within my work as I draw on my memories of the water and colours from the sea in a very different landscape. These colours that emerge in my work here in Dubai emulate both memories and living experiences in the present moment.

Can you give us an insight of your work process? Do you plan and sketch out your series beforehand or do you paint as you go?

I never plan my process. However, music plays a significant part in the development of my work; and that’s how it evolves. Some of my works take a while to complete; as I keep coming back to it until it has a life of it’s own.

Left: Desert Dwelling 1. Right: Desert Dwelling 2. Both courtesy of the artist.

Left: Desert Dwelling 1. Right: Desert Dwelling 2. Both courtesy of the artist.

You use a lot of mix-media in your paintings, what medium(s) do you enjoy using the most?

I love working with mixed media; it is the foundation of all my work. I enjoy the experimental nature that mixed media gives as it allowed me to have the freedom to create new and interesting work.

I am very hands-on when it’s comes to my work and mediums such a graphite, charcoal, plasters, acrylics and oils, gold lead, threads, pastels. I also use different old papers from my travels over the years; some of which have calligraphy imprint on them from China and the Middle East.

My work usually begins with dark, solid colours along with layered media, such as printed text and textured papers. However, as I work and rework the canvas the overlying layers become lighter in colour – this also subtly conveys depth to the surface of the painting.

After the Desert. Acrylic oil mixed media on cavas. 90 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

After the Desert. Acrylic oil mixed media on cavas. 90 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

You seem to enjoy painting bigger canvases and talk about “letting go and see what happens”, what attracts you to painting large-scale abstracts?

Painting on large-scale canvases gives me the opportunity to create something powerful and striking. I like to see the effects of mixed media on a large surface; often when working on larger surfaces things are never what they seem at close up, as how they appear from afar. This always intrigues me, especially when I have to stand back and look at the visual effect it emits.