Lara Mellon’s passion for life, her love of people and the earth, and her generosity of spirit is evident within moments of chatting with her. What sets her apart, however, are two things: a commitment to channel this passion constructively and refusing to be overwhelmed and incapacitated in the face of constant tragedy. So when Michael Sutcliffe, city manager of Durban, stated that if even 1 000 sex workers fell pregnant during the World Cup it would be a minor problem in a city of four to five million, Lara knew she had to do something.
When my paintings were exhibited overseas, I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment Artist LARA MELLON, 41, lives in Durban North, KZN with her husband, Patrick, and their two children, Andrea, 20, and James, 16. I started painting 10 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I have always been an artist in my heart but never had the time to pick up a paintbrush and start painting. But in 2000, after giving a complex answer to one of the directors at work, he eyeballed me from over his glasses and said slowly, “Paint. Paint. Paint.” I understood exactly what he meant. I had to stop overcomplicating things and get on with it. So that is what I did.
The intimate connection between humans and the earth is the foundation stone of all Lara Mellon’s work. “I grew up on a small farm [outside Springs on the East Rand] hence my strong connection to the earth, which is also a strong focus of my work at the moment,” the artist tells me when we meet at the KZNSA Gallery in Bulwer Road, Durban. “My work is all about connections between the earth and people.” Mellon, who lives in Durban North with her husband, Patrick, and children, Andrea and James, works mainly in mixed media and oil on canvas, although right now she’s concentrating on photo collages on an oil painted landscape base. “The people in the pictures are placed in such a way that it appears that they are emerging from the paint,” she explains. “The mood that comes across in Africa in all its uniqueness, its vibrancy.”
Kizo at the Gateway mall is abuzz with artists, art lovers, socialites, friends and family. People hover in front of the diverse works of the five participating local artists - Lara Mellon, Maggie Strachan, Joan Martin, Lesley Magwood-Fraser and Rene Leslie – chat, exchange opinions, sip wine and debate the issues of the day.
FIVE respected Durban artists show their latest works at the KlZO Gallery at Gateway in an exhibition titled Scratching the Surface which will be opened at 6pm today. It's strange that these artists are respected by Durban art-lovers, and that many collectors buy their work, yet they are not represented in nationally important public collections, or national galleries or museums. 'To get there, they perhaps have to extend themselves to go beyond scratching the surface.