Mel Galley took away 2nd winner, practitioner. with her digital renders of a ‘self portrait in the most abstracted sense’, prompted by the question If I were a landscape, what would it be?
With her digital rendering ‘How Tall Do We Stand?’ our second-prize winner Mel Galley starts with a question: ‘If I were a landscape, what would it be?’. It is, she says, ‘a self portrait in the most abstracted sense; a rendered, surreal place constructed out of the elements of the landscape [that] I feel reflect my perception of self.’ The dunes we see may curiously reference the Cumbrian coastline of Galley’s past, but the house on stilts represents the fragility of the present and the precarious uncertainty of our futures set against the backdrop of an almost utopian landscape.
Galley’s work proved a slow-burner in the practitioner category. While Laura Allen dismissed the work at first as ‘text-book examples of things that are hard to render; grass, fire and sand, probably all done in a game engine;’ over the judging morning, she would continue to return to it – and draw the other judges’ attention to it. Neal Shasore took convincing, but Arinjoy Sen began to appreciate ‘the plays on scale being what bring these images alive – it feels like a surreal expression.’ And it was this component and the skill of how they were rendered, rather than the red herring of a narrative, that ended up convincing the rest of the judges. ‘I like the ambiguity of the drawings’ construction and how it shifts how we might understand them,’ noted Allen. ‘I don’t mind that I don’t know what I’m looking at; it’s the fact they even draw you in to examine it.’