Art Review: Mela Yerka @ Maria Stenfors

This exhibition has the feeling of a group show. There are a variety of ‘painting’ styles, techniques and use of materials on display but they are actually the work of one artist, and an emerging one at that.

Mela Yerka has created a set of works reflecting the lives of abandoned children and the lives that they lead. These include haunting portraits through to the collection of glass jars hoarded by one child, just so that she may have some possessions to call her own.

This show even goes back as far as biblical times, with a work showing Moses being found abandoned in the reeds — created by slowly etching away at the canvas using bleach. One painting depicts a boy on all fours but only his outline is visible and he has been whited out — a reflection on how society doesn’t like to acknowledge his existence. Our favourite and most powerful piece is a portrait of a Ugandan boy painted on black velvet. The density of the material gives the sense that he is curiously leaning forward out of the darkness that is his home.

Many artists tend not to vary their styles because if one type of work sells well then there is commercial pressure to keep producing more of the same. This has worked well for many established artists and young artists often follow suit. So it’s great to see a recent graduate who is assured enough to keep experimenting with varying styles and techniques, with some great results.

Mela Yerka: What Red Blue Is In? is on display at Maria Stenfors, 21 Wren St, WC1X 0HF until 16 February. Admission is free.

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