The interest in culture as an unpredictable and uncontrollable power, which steers human societies and secures their survival, is the fundament of my artistic practice.

Our culture enables us to use tools and create systems of beliefs to protect us from dangers. It gives us self-criticism to relentlessly improve and create. I am fascinated by culture’s power over our everyday life, by human curiosity and by strength that enables us to break and change existing systems of beliefs, cultural norms and even ethical borders.

In my previous series of paintings I investigated how certain cultural forms from the past influence our modern culture (folk tales gathered by Brothers Grimm; romantic female archetype based on selected women from the 19th Century—lovers of famous men, who together created a sexual web of connections). In another series of work I explored what happens to a human being deprived of culture (feral children who grew up in wilderness or captivity). I believe that painting — which is an extremely/purely cultural form, which has lost its documentary values and which was announced dead too many times — is the best language to introduce the idea of culture as a highly organised system with random but meaningful forms.

I start my working process with thorough research, in which I focus my attention on those aspects of the subject, which help me understand the mechanisms of culture. Those aspects define the form of paintings and the techniques that can relate to the subject in a non-illustrative but informative way. However, the major part of my artistic exploration takes place in the studio, where an idea is translated into a painting.

Currently, I am working on a new series exploring the material value that different human cultures assigned to various commodities over the course of history, for example: gold, sugar, spices, cotton, guano, or tulip bulbs.


Mela collaborates with Maria Stenfors.