Selected Artists - 16° Drawing Prize

Melvin Way

Passionate about science and mathematical formulae, Melvin Way observes and analyses humanity, producing numerous talismans that protect him throughout his life. Following Melvin Way’s career means delving into the matrix of New York… plunging into Brooklyn of the 1960s, where he grew up, before landing on Ward’s Island, where he was homeless for a while, until he took refuge in a psychiatric hospital. This was where he met artist and workshop leader Andrew Castrucci, who encouraged him to explore his emerging creativity. He gradually developed a universe composed of thousands of bits of paper covered in writing, letters or numbers, most often in black and white, but also in blue, green, red or pink. Over the past few years, he has taken increasingly more liberties both with colour, using felt-tip pens or ink, and the notion of space, lightening his symbols still drawn on very small formats.

They contain real or magical scientific formulae, which man may easily explain, even if he enhances his message with mystical remarks about his many lives and trades. Claiming, for instance, to have been President of the United States more than thirty times; though only 68 years of age today, he says he will turn 473 next year … This enables him to observe and wonder about the world, believing that he has purchased several countries, such as Puerto Rico, or cities like New York. Way sees human life as a sphere and recalls how his early drawings concerned the existence of time. He thus focuses on the characteristics of atoms and ions, rapidly and obsessively inscribed on his pieces of paper, so as accompany his acute mind. His cabalistic writings are also about restorative medicine, evoking the fragmentation of the human body, before embracing the solar system and the universe. Driven only by his own reflections, for several years – whether by chance or because of his genius – he has bordered on questioning sexual orientation, gender and even raciality. Which leads him towards a far wider dialogue on solitude and finitude. Having experienced it when living on the streets, Way talks about the fact of being invisible and expresses it in his deliberately complex and hard-to-decipher formulae. Without having had any formal artistic training, he visits museums and churches, lingering in front of Old Master paintings. Believing he is on an equal footing with them, together with his sense of temporal fantasy, he may imply that he is the author of certain paintings (he claims to be the hand of Rembrandt), before returning to his countless drawings, which are both his refuge and his protection.

(texte de Marie Maertens).

Video Presentation

Sans titre, v. 2010,
encre sur papier et Scotch, 20 x 10 cm
Collection particulière.
©César Decharme. 

n.d., stylo à bille sur papier,
11,4 x 10,2 cm
Courtesy Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York.
©André Morin 

Sans titre, v. 2010,
encre sur papier et Scotch,
10 x 15 cm
Collection particulière.
©César Decharme 

Sans titre
Techniques mixtes sur papier

Courtesy Escale Nomade, Paris
collection Florence et Daniel Guerlain
crédit photo André Morin