Maegan Rose Mehler "Brick Wave Suede and Lilacs Too"
What are these shaped abstractions? Their genesis isn’t geometric. The quick strokes of oil paint laid down in swooping curves and crosshatch grids might share that territory, but the wooden supports that hold the wall don’t. The rough, rounded shapes follow loose contour outlines or break into bifurcating shapes that have a figurative aspect, a representational buzz that alludes to the body or, specifically, to the head seen from the front, the side, the back, or sometimes a three-quarter view.
We register them as faces then, held by edges that sometimes suggest an open mouth, a furrowed brow or a ponytail. They are portraits where the features dissolve not into anatomical elements but rather skeins of colour, texture and graphic energy. Identity is meshed with atmosphere here. The paint we see is not the extension of flesh that it often is in figurative painting. Instead, Mehler’s thin luminous marks and glazes tie us to landscape and arenas of space and perception. The heads transpose inner life into something outer, something with complex spaces and changing horizons. They are socialized entities rather than psychological ones.
There is a metaphor here for the changing nature of contemporary painting as it forges a tacit truce in the wars between representation and abstraction that shaped modern painting in the last century. Mehler’s work buries that animus and replaces it with a new, easy integration that presumes a recognition of painting’s capacity to hold attention and create meaning via its literal materiality and its engagement with the rich intersections of images and memory. Her paintings declare themselves stakeholders of both worlds. Abstraction is an integral part of our nature. It’s expansive potential is in our heads. So she shows them to us.
Whether abstract or representational, I present my work as a constellation of staged encounters - playful attempts at mimicking the complexities, awkwardness and humour inherent in everyday encounters. Recently I have been questioning what emotional imagination might mean and what is the capacity of the face when the eyes-nose-mouth become generic, or when they blur together or fall away completely.
Jan Verweort’s lecture, Affect in Effect: Being Touched by the Face has been useful in framing my current practice. He speaks about emotions existing as a mode of address between people, and the face as a medium upon which this can be understood—the face as an event. He explains, “Emotion is a social fact that happens in the space between people, and in that sense, emotion is not a product, but emotions are productions.”
‘Face,’ in my practice, becomes an open term that describes the affective potential of the paintings in their address with the viewer.
Maegan Rose Mehleris a painter and sculptor born in Estevan, Saskatchewan currently living in Toronto. She is interested in the politics of the face, complexities of relationships and affect as an event. She holds a MFA from the University of Guelph and a BFA from the University of Victoria. Recent projects include solo exhibitions Tyler Blue for an Ex Moon at Mi-Yu Gallery (Toronto) and Falling Face Sunshine Chaser at G Gallery (Toronto). She is the recipient of a 2014 and 2015 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Creation Grant from the Government of Canada.
About Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects
Launched in 2016 as part of the new Dupont St. gallery scene in Toronto, Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects was devoted to an exhibition program of contemporary Canadian art. Founding editor of C Magazine and editor of Canadian Art from 1996 through 2015, Richard Rhodes brought his expertise to exhibitions by emerging and established artists from across Canada. His informed critical eye launched and nurtured numerous careers in the Canadian art world over the past three decades. A photo diary of his continuing interests and work can be seen on Instagram at @c4rhodes. The gallery website will continue to be viewable at: www.dupontprojects.com.