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"Sparkling show" is a fitting tribute to "pioneer" Margaret Mellis

November 18, 2021

According to Ian Collins, Margaret Mellis: Modernist Constructs is "a sparkling show", and a fitting tribute to "a colourist of great originality and a pioneer in everything she ever did". 


In a four-page feature in the October 27 edition of Country Life, Collins charts Mellis' art and life, from escaping the Blitz in 1939 and settling with her husband Adrian Stokes in a long stone house near St Ives. The pair were soon joined by Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and Patrick Heron, and Nicholson in particular admired the small abstract collages she made at this time. After the break-up of her marriage, Mellis turned to painting, initially of still-lifes, before embracing hard-edged abstraction in the 1970s. Heron later praised Mellis' 'great optimism' and 'dedication' to colour and form.


For Collins, Mellis' best work was saved until last, with the driftwood reliefs, which she made from flotsam accumulated after long walks along the beach in Southwold. A young Damien Hirst was 'blown away' by the sculptures when they were unveiled at the Redfern, and visited Mellis on several ocassions in the early 1990s. 


The exhibition at Towner Eastbourne places a particular focus on these "wonderful abstracts", and Mellis remains "a dazzling discovery", writes Collins.