Edinburgh based Megan Chapman spoke to us about shifting the scale of her work during quarantine, choosing an audience and the three dimensionality of her work. Please keep reading for a short interview.
Hello Megan! How are you?
Hello, Ben! I am well thanks. How are you?
I like the concept of being interviewed in a chat. It’s how so many of us communicate these days anyway.
It’s nice because there is more of a vernacular affect, last month the interview (with the Kirkwood Brothers) has some “aye” and “wee” that probably wouldn’t have made it if it was an email interview.
Yes, I saw that. Yes, had a nice feeling.
I was wondering how you have been looking at art these past six months or so, if any online shows that you appreciated or social distanced shows?
Well, I feel inundated with art online. I get quite overwhelmed with it all on social media. Facebook, instagram, twitter. I have seen at least one or two formal exhibitions online. The Paisley Institute exhibition was online and done quite well. I had a couple of pieces in it and I was very interested how they would create an experience. I think they really succeeded. I also caught one exhibition in person when the numbers were lower this summer by Edinburgh artist and friend Karl Macrae and everything was socially distanced and very well run and it was lovely to be out and see art again.
Someone told me that we had to learn to look through screens instead of at them. The work you sent us, all from 2020? It has a real sense of depth, of layers, almost like animation frames or collages.
As far as how I am processing images, while overwhelming and different online it is still wonderful to see so much work, it seems to me many artists have been quite prolific during this time. Yes, all the work I sent you is from 2020 and is part of a 13 piece series called “This is how we tell the story” all on paper done from the corner of my living room as I have not been working in my studio in Leith. I have had to adapt my work to my surroundings, so the work has become more drawn, using conte crayon, charcoal, pastel, and paint. Thanks about the layers. Yes, there was a sense of depth created in the layering of the different media as I worked.
It also looks a bit “lighter” , not it terms of colours but in terms of how dense the images are, compared to some of the stuff on your site. Some of your work from around five years ago is a bit more anthropomorphic these look like faces to me.
I like how you see the works, collage and animation. Ha! Yes, good catch- much lighter. Enjoying working on paper, feeling less pressure, less precious. When you visit my site you see my paintings on canvas from my larger bodies of work more likely to be shown in galleries, I don’t often put my smaller works or works on paper there. I have two worlds for my art in a way. Yes, the 2015 work, quite hot in colour – a delicate balance – finding my way back to colour after turning my back on it for a while during my “white series”days in the years previous.
The new works are more drawn, illustrative almost – they look good flat (on your screens) but then they do have places you can wander into. I love to create spaces that folks can go into and hopefully let go of the world for a bit.
You also sold a painting to be used in a television show?
I sold 3 prints from a body of work that was done on paper and was not be viewed by the public due to the fragility of the paper and the work. It was more of a personal exercise for me. But, then I ended up really enjoying where some of the pieces went and prints were made – The HBO show True Detective bought the three prints to use in the last series of the show. I only clocked one of them on the tv but I must say it was a thrill.
A bit of an interesting thing to see them inside someone elses constructed reality, no?
Constructed reality – yes. I think this is something that is needed. For me the benefit of art is where it takes me and what it shows me and how I can feel new states and learn about myself and the world. I want to share that feeling with viewers of my work.
How important is context for you? What do you want the viewer to come to the work with? for example, Would you rather the viewer not read your bio?
Well, I want the viewer to be as present as can be in order to receive the work but I know that is often not the case. I know that often viewers spend seconds looking at a painting. I find this a bit heart breaking, so I try to make it easier for them. I might lead them into the work with a title. Like a bread crumb trail. I will give them things they understand first and then hopefully they can relax a bit and feel safe enough to come into the work and stay a while. I don’t mind if they skip my bio. I really want them to come into the painting. Read that later if they want more.
Right- A bread crumb trail–
I love making the work but then I really love when people connect with the work. Especially abstract art. I want to level the playing field and make it accessible. There are things to go back and look at, like more identifiable shapes.
–Bowls or objects…
Yes, there are these organic shapes that they will recognise. Brains can make sense of if need be. I know that abstract work can be hard for people to engage with so there are these little anchors within the painting. There are plot points, or notes like music to help pull the viewer along.
Yes, exactly. I think because most of us are comfortable with the written word from an early age. It takes our guard down where as art can feel confrontational to some. I am happy for that to happen too, but really I want people to have an experience. I know many don’t have the time and won’t allow themselves the chance to feel the work.
I asked you earlier about what you’ve seen recently. Are there any visual artists who you think are due for a critical revival. The other question I wanted to ask was if you could share with us a guilty pleasure, something you think is lame or stupid that you nonetheless love very much.
Well, I think women artists are underated. I know that is a blanket statement and I know that many museums and galleries are doing better and giving more exhibitions to women and people of colour. I think that’s well deserved and about time. I don’t even yet know the names of the artists that are due for a critical renaissance, but they are out there, and I want to see their work. All the artists I could name drop are doing pretty well in the exposure department at least.
As far as guilty pleasure… I am no royalist but I devoured all 4 seasons of The Crown in a very short period of time and was sort of shocked at myself but enjoyed the hell out of it.
Fair about women artists, and perhaps especially women painters
Yes, as a painter. I think it is very fair. Painting is still considered a man’s world in many respects.
Anyway, thank you Megan.
Thank you. Take care.