Margaret Mellis

Relief Construction in Wood (1941)

About this artwork

Mellis was encouraged to experiment with collages and constructions by her friend, the artist Ben Nicholson, whose family lived with Mellis and her husband in St Ives at the start of the Second World War. These new works forced Mellis to 'think in a different way, not in colour which was natural for me.' This relief is somewhere between a painting and a sculpture, as it is put together, or 'constructed', using wood of different colours and textures. Mellis has used both geometric and natural shapes: for example, the egg shape in the centre, which is divided by a triangle.

Margaret Mellis

Margaret Mellis

Mellis was born in China to Scottish parents and moved to Britain when she was one year old. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art under S. J. Peploe, winning a scholarship to study in Paris in 1933. In 1939 Mellis moved to St Ives with her husband, the writer Adrian Stokes. There, she became part of the St Ives group of artists and produced constructions of plywood, driftwood and found objects in addition to painting. In the 1960s and 1970s she experimented with constructions and reliefs in colour. Since 1978 she has made reliefs using driftwood.