Isn't it interesting how we inadvertently 'match' our surroundings.  


Sienna and I stopped in to visit Maggie and to see her latest, and very lovely large landscape paintings that she has been busy with after trips across all of KwaZulu-Natal countrysides.  Her work up on the wall in the background, her kaftan dress and Siennas coat all seemed to blend beautifully.


I fetched Joan to deliver our works to the Kznsa Gallery in January for the member's exhibit. Joan had wrapped her artwork in bright orange ... see how it matches her outfit.  My work was wrapped in vialene, the colour and texture was the same as the top I was wearing.



On Thursday, I visited my friend Ana to see her latest works. Amongst many delightful sights, I was especially drawn to and enjoyed this particular painting.  Ana's apron, her blouse and her hair was perfectly tuned into this fantastic painting of hers (and isn't the light streaming in exquisite!!!!).


Enjoying beautiful artworks, and being in the company of my friends is deeply enriching. xxx

Good Company - 2014, August

Sometimes studio work hours are long, and particularly in preparation for an exhibition, these can be well into the night, early in the morning and over entire weekends.

Sienna's been a delightful and constant companion.  Always close by, sometimes even with her paw over my foot ... reassuring me that it's all gonna be okay, press on :-)

For the exhibition Understory, I just couldn't get all ready on time so I coerced the accountant-farmer-friend-husband of mine Patrick to give me a hand with finishing off the mounted borders.

I really did delight in his exclaiming how "this isn't so easy ... or so quick" comment. Hmmhmm ;-)

You can see more photos of the work in my Studio on Melrose here: 

Babylon Burning - 2015, April

It's always so nice to see my works in the buyer's home.  

I visited my good friend Maria's beautiful new space that overlooks the ocean with full length windows allowing such fantastic fresh light that creates a wonderful space for this red hot burning artwork called Babylon Burning.  


Conversations: Frogs n Bats n Things

For a previous exhibition, Joan Martin and I exchanged postcards.

The process was wonderful, and rewarding. I enjoyed discovering new ways of ‘making art’ within a process that although fun still had meaning and purpose.

We both felt we’d like to continue communicating creatively with a particular purpose through a process of exchange, but thought to do so this time by means of ‘assemblage’ works instead.

As with our postcards before, the only ‘rule’ was to respond and then that the work would be three-dimensional.

Joan started this new conversation.  You can see her work here.   She has used the carcass of a frog which I had found ‘preserved’ in my studio fan sometime back.

Perhaps because I have frequently used nails in my art before, I immediately responded to these in Joan’s piece.  I then also really loved the meaning of her work, that of the transient nature of our lives.

2015 is very much a year of transition for me in many respects and on many fronts, most especially that of my children ‘moving out of home’.

Like Joan’s frog lies in a halo of nails, suggesting hardship … my Mary-figure also has a halo of twelve nails and is embedded on a piece of wood previously rotting, now beautifully preserved in many layers of bonding formulae.

Like Joan used something that I had given her, I have used something that she has given me;  the long strips of text are from a poem titled “Bat” by DH Lawrence that Joan had discovered in her research for our last exhibition.  Significant is the theme that explores a “shifting in human consciousness”…. a transition, and then that of the juxtaposition of joy and fear.


My Flying Figures

It felt like i was flying, when i heard the good news that my artwork had received second prize at the recent Member's Exhibition at the KZNSA.

Artists were encouraged to engage with the ethos of the gallery with the theme of TRANSOFORMATION-INCUBATION-ACTIVATION

As I'm still thoroughly enjoying working in mixed media in small 10x15cm formats, I responded with thirteen of these blocks, interspersed with little flying figures suspended on the wall inbetween the blocks.

My statement pretty much sums up my response:

We All Seek To Be Free
"We each have our own landscape, the geography of which is determined by our own unique circumstances. We are though, all connected in some way or another. In the end we each most likely want the same thing - freedom."

You can view the individual works, and a few gallery photos on my Facebook Artist Page here


What a lovely 'Christmas Gift' to be the featured artist  in the superb international art magazine MIXED MEDIA ROCKS.

You can read the full article here .... or mail me directly on laramellon@iafrica.com if you have any difficulty and I'll send you the pdf version.

It really looks fantastic I must say; BIG compliments to the editor Luisa Nims, and Editorial Assistant Aleksandra Mihajlovska and the rest of their team.

Mixed Media Art Magazine provides a source for great ideas, inspiration and techniques for Mixed Media, Collage Artists and Illustrators.

I subscribe to the electronic version - You can find out more about them on their website here.




I have a selection of small works available for purchase at the Buzzart Fair at the Kznsa Gallery this year.

Stop in and see all the beautiful LOCAL wares available and suitable for Christmas and other gifts.

You can see the works that I submitted here


Sold Works ...

If you have purchased an artwork off the exhibition, please contact Sumayya at the Gallery to arrange collection: 031 202-3686

You are also welcome to contact me too if you need any help.

Thanks for your support !!


ALSO:  All images of artworks from this exhibit can be seen in the 'Artworks' tab on this site.  xxx

Understory ... the end, the beginning ...

After a nearly three year process, our journey towards the Understory exhibition has come to the end ... but it's the beginning for other things now and that's exciting. 

My last postcard to Joan rings true "If people stand in a circle long enough, they'll eventually begin to dance - George Carlin"

Our circle of friends and family certainly stood with us ... and in the end it was a great dance.  THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INCREDIBLE SUPPORT and for ensuring that it we all had such a great time.

I've posted all the images of the artworks on this website in various sub-galleries for you to see, and then photos of the exhibition and of the walkabouts on my facebook page.

Here's looking forward ... xxx


Walkabout - with Ana De Vlieg - Saturday 13th Sept

We ended the exhibition on Saturday 13th September on a particularly high note thanks to Ana's ability to engage the crowd in her sincere, charming, insightful and caring manner.

You can read the transcript to get the basis of what she had to say here .... and you can view the photographs from the walkabout in the gallery here.


Walk About - Understory - by Estelle Hudson

Estelle Hudson is a narrative and family therapist.  She conducts dream workshops for professionals, Masters Students and interested people.  Her personal interests include feminist spirituality, drawing, painting and dream work.

She has been involved in Dream Work for the last 20 years and is fascinated with the symbols and images that appear in dreams.

Her approach in the walkabout is to explore these images and symbols and construct the narrative of the artists.

As well, Estelle is wife to Norman, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, herself a story-teller, a dreamer, an artist and our friend.

A highlight for us in preparation for an exhibition is to enjoy her company over an-depth interview and discussion in our studios where we talk about our work, where we exchange stories, and where we get to benefit from her insights.

Estelle has a skill many of us think we have, but few truly process. Estelle listens to understand rather than to reply.  This ability has not only been garnered and enhanced with her years offering therapy and counselling, but stems in essence from a most generous and kind spirit.


My brief this morning is to approach this event from the point of view of dreams, and the meaning of symbols encountered in our dreams.

So ... this huge body of art, 200 pieces to be exact, done over a period of two years, is about dreaming, about embodying the dreams, concretizing images, putting flesh on to thoughts, symbols, and the whole creative process. 

While we are using Joan and Lara's work to reflect on, using their symbols and images, and words from them when I interviewed them, I would also like to suggest that we, the viewers, will piggyback, identify with some of the symbols and the story that unfolds.

A simple formula on working on our dreams includes four points:

The Title

The Theme

The Feelings

And the questions asked in the dream


The Title of this Dream is Understory.  Let's de construct.....Under.....

It is about the Under developed part of the forest, the part of the forest that as yet has not reached its full potential, the part that is stunted because of lack of light, maybe even lack of space.  Joan describes it as relating to both of them going into the forest... 

What does this look like and feel like...?

Joseph Campbell says you enter the forest at the darkest part.... And the beginning of this journey is full of the unknowns, the path is hidden.

It is also described as a transitional period in their lives.....a crossing of transparent boundaries from one phase of life to another.

The title of this exhibition is fascinating...on analyzing it as if it were a dream and considering the word   Understory, we can use the knowledge we have about the understory of the forest and apply it to the psyche....

We can ask ourselves:

What part of me is the understory?

What part of me is waiting to emerge from hiddenness into light?

What part of me is now ready to enter that next phase of life, to cross the boundary of immaturity to places of wisdom and understanding and enlightenment?

Erikson talks about the sixth stage of life as Generativity vs Stagnation and Generativity is about generating new ways of being.  Both Artists have indicated a sense of transition, a crossing of boundaries.

Jung talks about the two halves of life..."one cannot live in the afternoon of life In the morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will, at evening, have become a lie".

As the word story implies there are events, moments in history, people and buildings, places ......All with a story to tell.  The Artists bring these to their canvases and by making them visible, by bringing them out of hiddenness reveal a story, not only of the image they use but also making it symbolic of their own journeys, their own dialogue, and their own history.

James Hollis in his book Swamplands of the Soul, describes the swamplands as a place of fecundity, microbes exist essential to life giving cycles of plant, animal and humans. This is true too of Understory, there can be no top story without the Understory.  The Understory is rich in compost, budding new life, when it emerges from the darkness there is a fresh green of new life.

The postcards form the backbone of the exhibition, the main support of this exhibition...it. Is about  conversations between two friends, conversations of ideas, reservations and seeds for creating.  This is where you have a full sense of their collaboration and a strong symbol from which creativity springs.

Then we look at Theme....one definition of theme is "an oft repeated and recurring note or chords in music found in a symphony".  The theme in this exhibition is demonstrated in the light that suffuses so many of the art pieces; another theme is a narrative and ongoing discourse.....intra psyche, Lara with Lara and Joan with Joan, and inter psyche, between Joan and Lara.

Let us look at the symbols...for Joan

There is the fig tree. This is a tree that takes hold of another tree until it finds its own roots; it becomes a home for all manner of insects, animals, birds. 

I couldn't help thinking of Joan's teaching and her statement that her students bleed into her life and she into theirs. The fig tree is full of life, taken from its original source and then finding and manufacturing its own life, giving root ...just as Joan and her students relationship with one another....; Joan's cat, Sam, which she says is a part of herself.... appears in much of Joan's work, her stamp if you like of consistency and presence.

I had an experience with Sam, when visiting Joan. He got up onto the couch where I was sitting. He considered me carefully and because I was otherwise occupied, I.e. Talking to Joan, he nudged me; the nudge became more assertive until I took notice of him. Touching Sam is a different experience, he is not furry but it is more like touching velvet. He demands attention, his presence is palpable, and he is affectionate and vulnerable at the same time.  When Joan says Sam is a part of herself she owns all these aspects of herself.

For the benefit of those Joan teaches, I quote from The Swordsman and the Cat ...".After a rat catching session the grand old cat was asked to take the seat of honour. They made profound bows before her and asked her to divulge all her secrets for their benefit.  The grand old cat answered: Teaching is not difficult, listening is not difficult either, but what is truly difficult is to become conscious of what you have in yourself and be able to use it as your own."

The Vasco da Gama art work is symbolic of a history we share but what fascinates me is the shadow it casts in the hanging and how often history has a shadow part which we can either learn from or repeat....the elements found here are about transformation, birth, death and rebirth the latter in the snake skin interwoven and forming part of the pillars that anchor it to the earth.

Lara's symbols...consists of figures of different shapes and sizes, symbolic of people who play different roles but essentially are who they are, a reminder that we each play different roles, take on different personas but have to find our own authenticity. Notice the Assemblage, the Arc with the people walking across the horizon of the earth and then notice too the shadows cast on the wall behind....it is a way of saying "we are more than what you first see...."

Lara's encountering the people along the road may be brief but in her ongoing use of the figures she gives them significance.  The encountering of Lara is always more than.  Conversation with Lara is always deep and often deep expressions of gratitude and awe are experienced for the world she lives.

The four dark paintings struck me as powerful symbols of the Understory Dark, hidden, even brutal until the light hits it.....when I first saw them I only saw the Iight until a closer look took me into the darkness from which the light had emerged.

Another powerful symbol of a truth of life...you can only see light when you know darkness.

Her Pilgrim figure is another symbol which, like Joan's cat, repeats itself and speaks of her own sense of searching, journeying......

Both have used the detritus of life, nails, wood, bottle tops, the skeleton of a bird found in the car park, wire, string, and given them life, recognition and acknowledgement, and an honouring of their past usefulness. Some of these articles have waited patiently in their studios to find a place of meaning on their palettes and in a work of art.

Another important symbol are The Shadow Boxes and bowls, symbolic of containers, Containers of memories; containers of mementoes; containers of Values. Being boxed gives value to the contents.

If Containers are a symbol of Self, with a capital S, we are reminded of ALL that has contributed to who we are.

According to some accounts of naval history and tradition, when a sailor retires and is departing ship for the last time, it is considered bad luck for the sailor's shadow to touch land before he or she does.  In other words the sun, the light has to be in front, lead the way.....and I am reminded that Shadow is one of the Archetypes Jung talks about, that part of ourselves which we don't like, we maybe are not aware of, which is hidden.  The journey to Wholeness (Carl Jung calls it Individuation), is to integrate the Shadow, to engage with the Shadow, to embrace the Shadow....  Is it possible that within these Shadow boxes of memories and mementos, that they contain parts of our lives which we have engaged with, learnt from, and like the sailors are presented with as accomplishments and of victories won?

I quote again Joseph Campbell:  "We enter the forest at the darkest place"

This journey of life is an intentional act; it is also a transitional place as we make our way through the forest.  The two assemblages entitled Falling Upward reinforce this idea.  It is the same title of a book by Richard Rohr and in his context he uses it to talk about the second half of life.

"A journey into the second half of life awaits us all.  Not everybody goes there, even though all of us get older, some of us get older than others.  A further journey is a well-kept secret for some reason ...  He says, the first half-of-life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore. "

The language of art is by necessity metaphor and symbol.  The light, he says, comes from elsewhere it is necessarily reflected through those of us, AND through this body of work, I might add, on the journey we have been taken here.

Richard tells of an encounter with Bishop Tutu in which the latter says, "We are only the light bulbs, Richard. And our job is just to remain screwed in..." Joan and Lara are indeed “screwed in" with their willingness to enter the forest, and make visible the hidden.

Lara speaks of a sense of purpose and clarity in doing this work, a sense of purpose, a sense of freedom and being true to the subject matter. Some pieces she tackled with a deep sense of knowing, and with some pieces, extended times of concentration and even struggle but to arrive at a place of resolution.

For Joan

The place of transition has been seeing it as a steppingstone into the next phase of life.  Creative thinking and birthing new ideas is not new for her as she employs this on a daily basis in her classroom, but this exhibition is about direction and purpose.

BOTH talk about their different ness...Joan is a city girl and being confined and contained is, like Sam, comfortable and secure.  Lara is a country girl and expresses herself in vastness and big landscapes and both emphasize connectedness to earth, people, to one another in their collaboration.

In Dream work we ask ourselves: what are the feelings in your Dream?

My feelings as I have entered into this Dream of Lara and Joan's exhibition are: 

Awe of the numinous ... the Sacred ...in creating;  a feeling of Inspiration by the work, the techniques, and the uniqueness of the use of materials.  I also have a deep sense of grateful ness and privilege to be given a window into Lara and Joan’s reflections and process of this body of work.


Understory: Exhibition Opening

The opening on Tuesday was a wonderful celebration.

We are very grateful to all those who joined us for a great evening, with special mention of Jenny Stretton who opened our exhibition. 

Below is the transcript from Jenny's opening address:   And you can click here to see more photos from the opening evening.

KZNSA 26th August 2014


Why do people paint fantasy – possibly because realist symbolism cannot carry the complex ideas the artist wants to express.

The painter creates another world by breaking a convention and, depending on the skill of the artist persuades the viewer to suspend disbelief and enter that world. Both of these artists are travellers in such worlds.

In Understory we descend to a level below consciousness, below the physical and below logic. The artists have used botanical shapes as the ladder for their descent: a curvaceous, organic, root-like link brings the viewer down from the canopy to their world. There is a sense that we are not viewing abstracted forms in the real world but rather real forms in an abstracted world – an exhibition that Alice may have curated. But the work is more serious than that with both artists narrating internal journeys that paradoxically have their roots above ground in the hustle and bustle of everyday life: it’s as if they descend to process and express the tensions in modern society.

This is not a collaboration, from the start one can see strong individual traits emerging : Mellon’s work uses connective elements such as string, strands, plumes of colour to link elements together. The filaments are reminiscent of nerve cells in some case, sewing thread in others, and in the case of the bolder columns of colour  –  they remind one of waterspouts or lava flows. These works speak of a need to connect with others, other people, other ideas, other worlds. The use of the circular format in which to place the compositions sets up a tension between the contained, insular, lonely ,internal world and the greater dangerous and infinite outer world.  Where characters are portrayed they are anonymous profiles or in the case of the work titled Grace set against the light giving the figure an ethereal sense. There is a very real sense of isolation , a poignant solitary quality that goes to the core of human existence – we are alone.

Martin’s work could be described as a series of coiled springs: energy is bound up in her figures suggesting potential, human capacity, and restraint. The parallels between the cat positions and the human figures seem to point to a dissolving of the borders between the two species and therefore a more than biological connection. Martin imbues the cats with human personality and vice versa. This is an interesting setup: collapsing the boundaries means a loss of ownership but also a freedom from owning the guilt that goes with the pride in one’s own breed. Martin plays further with this theme in the Vasco de Gama clock setting herself within the construction, contained like a bird in a gilded cage – such is the trap of colonialism. ... and the clock ticks on. Like Mellon she also uses trees to tell stories but in a different way: her trees are fantastical and invite discovery, the viewer would not be surprised to find raiders from... War of the Worlds climbing from limb to limb.  Like Mellon, Martin also uses a circular format in some of the works but these serve a different purpose – parking or ring-fencing difficult or unpleasant topics in bowls that are in essence little holding tanks or jails.

So both artists deal with the Understory in ways that are connected but different.  In the postcard series one is reminded of the distance that separates all individuals  – the metaphor made all the more potent by the apparent lightness of the exchanges. The obvious affection the artists have for one another bleeds into the work as they pass parts of their lives back and forth. One obviously recalls  84 Charing Cross Rd , a transatlantic  correspondence set in post-war England in which two characters become firm friends over a twenty year period of letter writing. Here however the Mellon/Martin exchange revolves around work, it was the genesis of the exhibition, the idea of forging a common piece of work albeit in two halves.  These postcards chronicle the process – how  their inevitably separate contributions were brought together. Herein lies the truth of this exhibition, its tension and its power. 


I’m very happy to open this exhibition.  


Understory @ the Kznsa Gallery

You can read a bit more about our exhibition on the Kzn Website:

Joan has cleverly combined images of her and my work ... to come up with these banners.

I think they look great and are a fabulous reflection of a collaborative exhibition !

(above) Lara's "Crossing Over" and Joan's Sam

(below) Lara's "Tanglewood" and Joan's Sam


Trying so hard to finish up ...

Final days to our exhibit ... and i just can't seem to finish ... gosh! But my studio's still my place of joy and sanctuary, and escape from all that lies outside.  Of course my Sienna to keep me company makes it all the more glorious.




Collaborating - Connecting - Creating

Four years ago Joan Martin and I decided to work together on a collaborative exhibition - now set for August 26 until September 14 at the KZNSA Gallery.

In the process of sharing our thoughts, and as a means of remaining 'connected' we decided to use the system of exchanging mail-art

Besides ensuring that we got to see each other regularly for quick cups of coffee as we delivered our latest piece, the process also documented our journey and thoughts towards our exhibition.  Each card received from the other required a response from the next and so on, and on and on we went.

The first card is dated 23rd October 2012.  To date we have over 40 cards between us.

We will share the images of these cards, as well as the script over the coming ten weeks leading up to our exhibition. 

You are welcome to login here from time to time to see the progression of the cards and our story.

Card 1:  Lara




23 October 2012

Hi Joan -I can't wait to begin our journey.  We've spoken about it for so long.  Here we are, at the edge of the forest.  I wonder what we'll find! A bit of magic I expect.  Love Lara   

Card 2: Joan



 Card 3: Lara




 1 November 2012 – Dear Joan,  Imagine you seeing an antelope when I recently have just finished a painting of a kudu J  The meaning of antelope in dreams is also very interesting.  Google it.  And how I love the idea of caves … lots of ideas spring to mind … and the magic continues.  Love Lara   

Card 4:  Joan

Card 5:  Lara

Card 6:  Joan


 Card 7:  Lara

28/11/2012 – Dearest Joan, The image of the dead bird reminded me of how much I love the idea that “all returns to the earth” … the FRAGILITY of thins is intriguing … and difficult to grasp too mind you.  The connection of the dead bird and dead or no longer used nest is also interesting.  Love Lara

Card 8:  Joan


Card 9:  Lara


Card 10:  Joan

 Card 11: Lara



Joan, the end of a line can be the beginning of another and then it can also just be the end.

Card 12:  Joan


 Card 13:  Lara


4 Oct 2013 – Dear Joan,  Its interesting how each artwork, or postcard or painting, or idea I have seems bent on being in forests … the over’leaf’ is a section from your previous postcard reused … and it looks to me to be that of a magical forest.  Love Lara

Card 14:  Joan

Card 15:  Lara


Dear Joan,  I found it interesting that the verse below referred to wolves, serpents and doves … (and to sheep) … although I can’t say that I’m keen to paint sheep … I count enough of them each night!  I’m sure we’d find lots of snakes, birds and the occasional wolf in our forests though … but sheep … not really! Loadsaluv, Lara

“ Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16

Card 16:  Joan

Card 17:  Lara

 Card 18:  Joan

Card 19:  Lara

Dear Joan,  I was delighted to receive your last card with the rabbit … especially seeing that I’d just bought myself the little white rabbit, photographed overleaf … clearly we’re sync’d.  I hope we’re not stuck in the Matrix though.  Love Lara

Card 20:  Joan


 Card 21:  Lara

Card 22:  Joan


Card 23:  Lara

Dear Joan,  At this time of year, I’m very conscious of my need for rest … and am also very attached to my pillow …  I recently took a photo of Andrea asleep in and amongst her pillows, study books and teddy bears.  She too has hopes and dreams of which I’m deeply inter-connected.  Love Lara

 Card 24:  Joan


 Card 25:  Lara

13 December 2013 - Dear Joan,  The word friend along with ‘connection’ resonated for me in your last card.  Technology is great in many respects, but just like an artwork experienced ‘in the flesh’, nothing beats connecting in the real.  Love Lara

Card 26:  Joan


Card 27:  Lara

27th December 2013 – Dear Joan, Birds emerge from forests … perhaps to fly away or else simply to see things from afar!  Love Lara


Romantic notions of Wine .... and ...

My last posting probably compounded the already (not-so-accurate) notion that working in one's studio's a rather tame, pleasant affair where between one's efforts, sips of wine are enjoyed and perhaps even, one would recline back in a chair to enjoy the day (night's) efforts.

This is not entirely so.

My daughter Andrea caught a snapshot of me working last weekend;  huddled over, sanding, scraping ... burning (I often burn my works down with a heat gun ... the effects are amazing).  Sometimes I lose works without intention .... and then I'm sad ... other times the rawness of breaking down a surface reveal gems. I seldom know the outcome.

The work comes with hard effort, frustrations ... finger cuts, a few burns, and sore knees too :-)

The important bit though ... is to ensure as best one can ... that a great amount of enjoyment is had.



The first image is of a work that now no longer exists ... the second image currently exists, but who knows for how long :-)



Till Late in my Studio 8

Having a full day to myself, and in my studio's a luxury and a treat. 

I had a great day's work and am excited about the direction my work has taken. 

At the end of the session, not having a clue what the time was, I walked out into the dark of night with not a light on in the house .... I turned 'round to notice my studio lit from inside and thought of the saying "It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light - Aristotle Onassis"


You can see a few more pics here