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A Magazine for Sheffield
Receiver 2022 3

Tyler Mellins Sigils and dark echoes

“I think there are parallels between being a ghost hunter and an artist.”

Hailing from Mansfield but based in Sheffield, Tyler Mellins is a multi-disciplinary artist whose art spans video, installations, experimental texts and sculpture.

With interests including mysticism, spirituality and the occult, his work makes for fascinating viewing. Halfway through his residency with the Freelands Foundation and with a new exhibition currently showing at Site Gallery, it felt like the perfect time to catch up with him.

What drew you towards pursuing a career in art?

I often ask myself that! It’s not an easy ride, is it?

I think it comes down to doing something that is completely my own, where I’m working on my own terms. I have a really fulfilling day job working with artists, which means that I’m able to keep my practice free from commercial pressures.

I don’t like being told what to do! It’s a bit petulant, but it’s true.

Sigil for Communication I Tyler Mellins 2021

Sigil for Communication I by Tyler Mellins (2021)

Sigil for Communication VII Tyler Mellins 2021

Sigil for Communication VII by Tyler Mellins (2021)

Who or what influences your work?

I soak stuff up all the time. It happens really naturally for me. I spot things that I think are interesting and then give them some thought. Eventually it all melts together into an idea.

I’m most influenced by things that are on the periphery, that you might dismiss or overlook, and part of that is because I think it’s a powerful position to not be paid attention to or taken seriously. Those are the things that sneak past you! I think it’s important to pay attention and question things. So I guess my work is about taking something like that – whether it’s magic, ghosts, religion, astrology or whatever – suspending any disbelief or cynicism I might have, and seeing where it takes me.

I’m not necessarily diving in completely believing in everything I make work about, but I’m conscious to never shut anything down. I like to leave the door open for inspiration to come through. I want my work to take people out of their everyday lives, and hopefully that might change how they think when they return to the real world.

Breakthrough 2022 1

Breakthrough by Tyler Mellins (2022)

Jules Lister
Breakthrough 2022 2

Breakthrough by Tyler Mellins (2022)

Jules Lister

This month you're exhibiting in 'Dark Echoes' at Site Gallery as part of Platform 22, which also extends to Yorkshire Artspace and Bloc Projects. Which concepts will you be exploring and what form has the making process taken?

My work in the show looks at how technology might be able to facilitate communication with ghosts, based on the beliefs of paranormal investigators.

I used to work for a ghost hunting company and I’ve spent many nights in old buildings watching people try to make contact with the dead using all sorts of devices. I’ve been using some of that specialist equipment – such as a radio that can make ghost voices audible, and a laser that encourages apparitions – to create new work.

I think there are parallels between being a ghost hunter and an artist. We’re both trying to capture or reveal something that other people can’t see yet and, depending on who you ask, maybe we’re both exploring our subconscious minds too.

Sigils for Communication 2021

Sigils for Communication by Tyler Mellins (2021)

Jules Lister
Dark Echoes install shot

Dark Echoes exhibition at Site Gallery, featuring Tyler Mellins, Kedisha Coakley and Adebola Oyekanmi

Jules Lister

How has the support of the Freelands Artist Programme impacted your creative practice?

It’s been an absolute blessing. I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Perhaps it’s crass to say, but the funding that comes with the programme has given me the means to work in the way I’ve always wanted to. I’m in a position where I feel my work is reflecting my vision, because I’m not having to make any compromises in the making process. I’ve never really had that kind of gratification before from my work. I guess with the money and the support from expert curators and technicians, I’ve had a safety net to take risks and be bold. It’s really energised my practice and I’d like to think it’s elevated my work, too.

Notes on Alchemy Rubedo Tyler Mellins 2019

Notes on Alchemy - Rubedo by Tyler Mellins (2019)

Notes on Alchemy Citrinitas Tyler Mellins 2019

Notes on Alchemy - Citrinitas by Tyler Mellins (2019)

Your Notes on Alchemy series is fascinating. Can you give us a brief synopsis of the project?

Gosh, that seems like forever ago! I made that work on my MFA (Master of Fine Arts). I was trying to research alchemy for a project but I found the texts so inaccessible, both in how they were written but also in terms of physical access, as libraries and museums were so reluctant to share.

It took me about two years to build a decent understanding, and in the end that process of trying to learn became more interesting to me than what I’d originally planned. The books in the project were all subjected to a different alchemical process, so it was a way of ‘writing’ without words. I wanted the books to embody what they were about and express it outwardly, rather than concealing the information within.

Receiver 2022 1

Receiver by Tyler Mellins (2022)

Jules Lister

What's next for you after the Site Gallery exhibition? Anything in the near future we should look out for?

I’ll be continuing to work with Site Gallery for the next year. We’re planning a séance in March, bringing in a medium to try and make contact with the artist Susan Hiller, who died a few years ago. It calls back to an exhibition they hosted in 2004 called Haunted Media, which looked at a lot of the same themes I’m exploring at the minute. We’ll be sitting in the same spot her artwork was shown during that exhibition. Who knows, maybe she’ll show up? I’m excited about it.

Like most of my work, it’s about making the conditions right and seeing what happens.

Learn more

Visit Dark Echoes at Site Gallery until 26 February 2023.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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