Review: In Memory of the Perfect Wife

The debut exhibition from Latvian-born artist Zane Mellupe

ifa Gallery, Until Monday 29 August

Latvia-born Zane Mellupe first became involved in the local art scene in 2007, establishing herself as an integral part of the Liu Dao (island6) collective. In mid-2010, she became an art director in her own right, converting a number of spaces on Yongkang Lu into temporary art galleries, as well as collaborating with Chengde Lu’s ifa Gallery as an independent curator.

This show at ifa, In Memory of the Perfect Wife, marks her debut solo exhibition as an artist. With nearly 50 pieces altogether, an impressive amount of work fills every room in the three-storey gallery. Although this isn’t the first time her work has been shown, it is one of the rare occasions when she has accepted attribution for her work. Most pieces by the Liu Dao collective aren’t signed by individual artists, and while several shows Mellupe curated at ifa and Yongkang Lu featured her works, she usually signed them with a made up Chinese name.

In Memory represents Mellupe’s exploration of childhood memories and female domestic responsibilities. Each of the gallery’s five rooms are made to represent a different part of a house: a living room, a kitchen, a closet, a bedroom and an embroidery room. In the bedroom, distorted wooden furniture and installations give the room a surreal, dream-like quality of warped memories, also evident in photographs displayed in the closet room, which offer partially hidden glimpses of the artist.

One interesting motif is the string-like light cables that are made into a series of crocheted works entitled ‘Dowry Chest No 1-3’. The cables also feature in the embroidery room on the top floor – a dark, attic-like space in which they glow softly in various colours, embroidered in different patterns on six canvases. These pieces are slightly reminiscent of Liu Dao’s LED light pieces, imbued with Mellupe’s tongue-in-cheek take on ‘the perfect wife’.

Ultimately, it’s an ambitious debut, showing off Mellupe’s eclectic skills as a painter, photographer, sculptor and most of all, conceptualist, which have been evident throughout all her artistic endeavours thus far. The show is slightly disconcerting in places, but it offers some visually striking pieces and ideas.

Berwin Song

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