Britt Merrylees’ Wax Encaustic masterpieces conjure the bewitching magic of the expansive ocean and enchanting natural world which she is so enthralled by; through her elegant artistic touch the natural beeswax transcends its form and as the molten material inspissates a timeless story is woven into its fibre. Wax Encaustic is an historic medium that dates back to 5th Century BCE, at which time it would have been used to decorate marble statues and create prestigious portraits in Ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures, however Merrylees has an entirely modern and contemporary approach to this versatile and receptive medium that references Abstract Impressionism in its instantaneous and evocative nature. The artist ardently manipulates the unpredictable liquid wax with such intuition that stunningly visceral textures are gifted with a voice through which to eloquently communicate complex sentiments with the viewer.
By melting vividly coloured cera alba, Merrylees instills a wealth of dynamic layers that possess an unmistakable sense of movement; the hardened media captures an instant in which it is solidified in eternal motion, concordant with Giambologna’s Hercules who is bound in perpetual combat with Nessus. Merrylees’ sophisticated use of colour often demonstrates a refined selection of hues from which an attentive observer can extrapolate creative ties with John Hoyland; despite the bold palette, the exceptional textures are the primary focus of each opus. Merrylees gives the viewer extensive freedom to observe the galaxy of layers beneath the surface by frequently utilising a wide range of opacities that articulately translate the overwhelming power and depth of the sea with a spiritual essence comparable to the graceful Ukiyo-e water scenes; Merrylees’ bubbling waves enshroud a myriad of mysteries below that entice the observer to dive into the hidden realms of the piece.
Merrylees allows the wax to lead the way in an approach that, at its quiddity, heralds discernable similarities to the philosophies of action painting and so share an array of intellectual values with Jackson Pollock. While it is true that the artist has an utterly unique point of view and creative style, it is possible to draw some visual comparisons between Merrylees and Frank Auerbach; both artists lavishly apply their materials with such vigour that the distinguished layers and textures are enhanced, sagaciously drawing the eye of the spectator across the composition. Merrylees conveys a complex level of detail that stimulates the viewer to analyse the undulating forms and shapes within. Each individual is empowered to find their own version of the narrative that has been communicated so compendiously through the work, which evokes a limitless sense of intrigue.
The fluidity and ease of Merrylees’ organic materials form the ideal medium for her to artistically represent her emotions through their exquisite shapes that bear a divine simplicity comparable to the sculpture of Jean Arp. Concealed by the boundless mysteries set in wax, on deep contemplation Merrylees’ collection ‘Fluid’ is saturated with the artist’s honest and intellectual perspective that is delicately shared through expressive colours and an urgent sense of movement. The artist demonstrates shared philosophical ideals in regard to self expression with the likes of Gerhard Richter, demonstrable from their spontaneous use of medium that forges a direct and emotive channel through which to radiate their own personal message.
Merrylees’ exceptional talent and implicit affinity to her artform is wholly visible in each overwhelmingly powerful piece that she augments; the immediacy that the beeswax demands reflects the innate creativity that Merrylees possesses as she instinctively adapts with the medium. Her artworks encompass an exponential level of skill and harbour superbly intricate meanings which long for the viewer to discover and ruminate upon them.