The first things you notice about the work of American artist Rafael Melendez are the lines. Firmly employed graphic marks, defined and connected – rather than flowing off into the spatial plane.
Rafael Melendez has recently joined the rag-tag crew of misfits, auteurs and innovators connected to scent provocateur Timothy Han’s practice. Timothy, oft thought of as a pirate of perfume, crafts perfumes that are both unexpected and deep, filled with sensorial narratives that speak to one on a seductively visceral level. It’s only fitting that Timothy Han Editions’ perfumes are based on seminal works of literature, with his past three scents communing with Kerouac, de Beauvoir and Mishima. Number four has turned to Huysmans’Against Nature.With such enigmatic source material, it’s doubly fitting that he and Melendez collaborated on the limited edition artwork as part of the perfume. An artwork of the senses.
How did Timothy and Rafael cross paths? Depends on who you speak to, however both cite the fates of “destiny” and “grateful serendipity” for bringing them together as cross-pollinating collaborators.
And it’s born fruit. A union of equals. For Timothy, it is Rafael’s execution, simplicity of style and vision blended with subtle contexts that belie a richness – something deeper and complex – that connects them. An unfurling of connexions the more time one spends with the works. All tinged with a dark levity.
“I feel like Rafael’s work is a kind of contemporary twist on symbolism” Says Timothy, continuing “which of course is the movement which Huysmans identified with after he broke away from his naturalist routes.”
“I WANTED THEM TO TELL A FUTURE PRIMITIVE STORY COMBINING SYMMETRY AND ALIEN FORMS.”
For Timothy Han’s newest perfume, Against Nature, Rafael designed five abstract works to accompany them. Moved by the idea of translating a radical piece of literature into a bottled scent, Rafael was attracted to this opportunity in order to apply his love of contradiction. Creating digital drawings on his iPhone, Rafael created a stream of consciousness narrative using five images: “I wanted them to tell a future primitive story combining symmetry and alien forms.”
Confined, the artworks don’t break out of their tightly constructed silhouettes – they are taut in their abstraction but carry a sinister sensation in their strict forms, bringing to mind Rorschach inkblock tests. On closer inspection however, the differences reveal themselves; giving way to a strange sensory struggle of grasping the imperfection in a seemingly flawless mirrored image.
It is exactly through this sense of kinetic movement that the five works for Against Nature tie back to Rafael’s familiar style. The sense of potential against the instigation of action, a friction reflected in the tale ofAgainst Natureitself. A blur between the natural and the artificial - echoing an inability to accept beauty.
Rafael brings a new facet to Timothy’s work – mutual admirers of each practice, friends, now collaborators. As Timothy says “It’s crucial for people from different worlds to come together and represent an idea within a bigger picture.” Indeed, Rafael’s engagement with scent is equally important. A thread that allows one to traverse through time. “It is a good way for me to recall things from the past – it’s a way of looking back.”