Friends of Leon Gallery is celebrating their 7th birthday with a gorgeous, touching, sensual, and mesmerizing new exhibition by New Zealand artist Meredith Marsone. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meredith about her distinct painting style, her life as an artist, her worldview, and much more. Through the stories and insights she shared, I came to realize that gripping artworks and distinct artistic voices can only stem from artists’ integrated selves, well-thought-out perspectives, and inner convictions.
Thursday, May 26, 2016 | 6 – 8 PM
If you’d like to attend the opening reception, please RVSP via the exhibition event page.
May 26 – June 11, 2016
82 Marlborough Street
Surry Hills 2010 Sydney
(Above) Detail of “Fusion”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 800mm x 800mm tondo
When I was viewing your current and previous works, I noticed a huge change in your painting style in 2015. You mentioned that your current style was born out of frustration. Would you relive the moment when you came up with this new edgy painting style for us?
I’d been working on a painting for hours but had to finally concede it wasn’t working. I picked up my palette knife, which I had only used for mixing colour at that point, and smeared paint over what I had deemed to be a failure of a painting. To my astonishment, the painting transformed. A few hours of playing, balancing and mark-making later ‘Shiver‘ was completed. Now, this technique is more refined and purposeful but still a risky and therefore scary method of paint application. Often the figure underneath is fully rendered and the gestural paintwork is applied over the top. There’s a very real risk the painting will get destroyed in the adding of the abstract paint. But it’s an important addition to the work. The purpose of this application is to create an emotional currency, an access point for connection. And since my work is more or less all about human connection, it’s the perfect way for me to visually represent my ideas.
(Above) Detail of “Once We Were”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 900mm x 900mm
The very first thing I notice when I look at each of your painting is the emotions of the characters . . . especially the longing/affection/worry/detachment/etc in their eyes, hands, and postures. Is there any specific thing you do to express these emotions so vividly through your work?
I think this is partly an intuitive aspect to my practice. The ideas for a body of work percolate for a while and the imagery will come to my mind during that process. It’s an ever evolving process though, from one painting to the next. It comes back to ‘what do I want this work to say?’ and that’s an ongoing conversation. But the expression of these ideas comes down to paying very close attention to the subtleties at play in the imagery. The slightest change in the tilt of the eyelids, for example, can change an expression from concern to anguish, adoration to obsession.
(Above) Detail of “Sorry”. Oil on board, 400mm x 300mm
Would you give us some hints on the things we should pay attention on as we are appreciating your works? Is there any interesting detail some of us might fail to notice?
It’s important to me that this body of work isn’t just exploring a ‘straight’ story of love but more an exploration of human connection in all its shades. I’ve used friends from various walks of life – straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, androgynous, cross-dressing – not to be PC but because it’s important to me that my audience can find a truth in there for themselves. And maybe I wanted to challenge the viewer that initially just sees ‘straight love’ in the imagery that what they are seeing is in fact something more complex and rich but very human and relatable.
(Above) Detail of “Proxy”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 800mm x 800mm
What’s your usual working process? (How do you usually approach each new project? Do you have any working ritual?)
A new body of work will start with a spark of an idea – something I feel especially driven to paint. Usually I’ll have some imagery in my mind and I’ll start musing over it and expanding it out to a larger picture. When I’m clear about the intention behind the work I commission a photographer and several models to work with me to capture the reference material I need. I move from image to image, whichever grabs my attention, and create the body of work, usually with two – three paintings in progress at any one time. Nearer the end of completing the entire show, I’ll sit with the work and make sure the final pieces complete the overall story. It’s not quite as formulaic as it might sound. There’s a lot of intuitive moments in there laced with a hefty dose of trust!
(Above) Detail of “Find Me”. Oil on board, 400mm x 300mm
What’s your typical week is like?
Monday to Friday, my days are similar: Morning Crossfit session to get things moving then into the studio for the majority of the day. Late afternoon is focused on my three children. My partner, Carsten, arrives home from work and we all have dinner together, which is an important connection and check in time for us. Evenings are for admin or correspondence and maybe a House of Cards or Just Call Saul episode! On the weekends, you can find us drinking coffee at the local market, hanging out in cafes, the movies and there will be some studio time too.
(Above) “Consensual Fiction”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 900mm x 900mm
What do you typically do between exhibitions? Do you accept private commissions?
Yes, I work on commissions, group show pieces and idea development for my next big project. I’m never too far from the studio!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just completed two group show pieces and two commissioned portraits and I now have a few weeks to rest and look ahead at my 2017 solo preparations. Right now, it’s less intense than when I’m in full solo show production mode where it’s more about diligence and commitment. I can take time to play and experiment, which is a critical part of practice development.
(Above) Detail of “Harbour”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 900mm x 700mm
How many days have you gone without painting anything at all these past 3 years?
It has taken me years to find a good relationship with my creativity. For the longest time I almost felt at war with it and I would go six months without painting. I look back at this time as being a real struggle- like having had a massive fight with it and we hadn’t spoken for months but still remaining with a longing to reconnect and try again. But something changed for me last year when I found my style- my thing, and now creating is largely harmonious. Not without its challenges of course, I’m always striving to get better at what I do. Now, I don’t really go a day without painting something. Sometimes I’ll take the weekend off!
(Above) “Reduction”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 600mm x 600mm tondo
Most of your recent oil paintings are painted on board. Why do you pick those specific art media? What do you particularly like about them?
I’ve really enjoyed the smooth surface for being able to capture really fine detail without the interference of canvas weave. In saying that, the last two paintings I’ve completed have been on canvas so the love affair there is not quite over!
What does art means to you?
It’s my mode of communication. It’s my voice and my way of contributing to the world. I won’t say something cheesy like, its everything, but without the ability to paint I think I would feel quite lost. There’s just such a drive in me to do it.
(Above) Detail of “The Insatiable”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 900mm x 700mm
To you, what’s the most important thing in this life?
Relationships. Love. Looking after each other. I think it’s really important as an artist to share your own experiences through your work. Abstracted Love is born of my experience of growing my intimate relationship, which has been the most important and rewarding journey of my life. There are so many aspects to relationships that are under-discussed. For example, the very real fact that your partner/husband/wife is there to hold a less than glamorous mirror up for you to see the parts of yourself that need growth/healing/accepting/addressing in some way. If you don’t accept this to be true, you’ll deem your relationship ‘broken’ or your partner ‘not right for you’ when you hit each other’s sore spots. Nothing’s broken. You just need to work through your own shit in order to be a better version of yourself. And so does your counterpart. That’s what relationships are- people growing machines. I just want to contribute in some way to dispelling the Hollywood notion of the ‘perfect’ relationship. Because I know how many times, through refusing to see my own destructive patterns, I wanted to give up on this relationship. And that would have been a tragedy. Because now, having done the work on myself, growing into a better ‘me’, I have never been happier or more content.
(Above) Detail of “The Departure”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 900mm x 900mm
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an artist you wish you’ve known at the beginning of your career?
That your part is to show up and give 100%. Dedicate yourself to your work. Produce the best you possibly can, commit to improving with each piece and the rest will eventually fall into place. Life and making art is not about struggle. It’s about finding something to give your all to and being unreserved about it. That will resonate with people and you will find some level of success as a result. Nothing is guaranteed but the satisfaction you’ll gain from the process will be a reward in itself.
(Above) Detail of “The Insatiable”. Oil and silver leaf on board, 900mm x 700mm
(Above) Detail of “Secret”. Oil on board, 400mm x 300mm
(Above) Gallery Owner Leon Krasenstein