Megan Archer is coming to mz project room this summer.
Exhibition: July 14th until August 18th 2018
Opening: Saturday, July 14th
Artist Talk: Sunday, July 29th
Megan Archer – Biography
Born 1988 in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Lives and works in Berlin.
2007 – 2010, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts, Christchurch, New Zealand
Unspoken, Stash Gallery, London, United Kingdom
May 16-30, 2018 – Group Show
I’m Not This Body, MÖ Gallery Art Show at VOODOO55, Berlin, Germany
April 27, 2018
EAF – Enter Art Foundation – 30 Contemporary Artists, Multipolster, Berlin, Germany
April / May 2017
Green Hill Gallery, Berlin, Germany
July / Aug 2017
Christmas Group Show, Oslo Kaffebar Artspace, Berlin, Germany
Dec 2, 2016 – Jan 2 2017
XXS Xmas Art Market, Berlin Blue Gallery, Berlin, Germany
Dec 8-11, 2016
CONTOURS, Berlin Blue Gallery, Berlin, Germany
Nov 4-9, 2016
with Timothy Armstrong
LICK HER LECKER, Pony Royal, Berlin, Germany
Sep 16-25, 2016
with David Jack
Liberating the Female Spirit, FELLINI Gallery, Berlin, Germany
Jul 28- Oct 12, 2016
Group Show 2015 Emerging Artists, Vol. 2, Berlin Blue Gallery, Berlin, Germany
Nov 20-27, 2015
2010 CAT SHOW, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Oct 11-18, 2010
Megan Archer » Retrolution «
As of July 14th, we present a promising newcomer to the Berlin art scene:
New Zealand artist Megan Archer paints her digitally assembled works of art in oil on canvas in a detailed figurative style. Her clash of old and new techniques gives her work a uniquely modern signature. She utilises aesthetic tropes from the seventies and eighties but places them unmistakably in the present day. Megan’s body-morphing hybrids and collages captivate through colour, subject and haptic touch.
Below is an impression of the young artist, her career, ideas and works.
Interview with Figurative Painter Megan Archer
If there is something you are passionate about – paint it!
Megan, how old are you and where did you grow up, and how did you become an artist, more specifically a figurative painter?
Megan Archer: Hi, I am almost 30 years old, I grew up in New Zealand all over the country. I was born in Dunedin, but because of my dad’s job I moved around from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington…I never had one fixed city in which I lived for longer than 4 or 5 years. I have now lived longer in Berlin than any other city.
I have always been into painting and anything creative since I was little. At one point I remember wanting to be a marine biologist or a vampire but I always came back to wanting to be an artist. It was natural that I studied art at university and my parents were supportive of that.
I have always been more attracted to figurative painting than abstraction. I tried to go in both directions but was drawn back to the first. I just did not feel like going against that urge.
What was the most important influence or guiding principle/idea that you took from your university?
Megan Archer: I went to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand which, along with Elam in Auckland, is one of the best universities for art. I wanted to go to a university where teachers specifically taught painting or design and you could still have cross disciplines as well. You start off in your first year being taught six different disciplines and then you specialise in two for the second half of the year. For the remaining three years you have just one discipline.
I was initially torn between specialising in graphic design or painting, both of which I had already been taking since high school. All of my closest friends were doing design, their aesthetic sometimes influenced the way I would paint: clean colours with a slightly ‘digital’ look. My painting professor noted that my work is more illustrative, based more on design rather than fine art principles.
How and when did you get to the style and focus on the human body / body parts? What is your obsession with anatomy?
Megan Archer: My painting professor said very early on, if there is something you are passionate about, paint it. So in my second year I began to paint animals and people. He also said: “Push things to the limit, do things that shock people” and I ended up thinking, “What can I do thats shocking, painting animals and people, oh, that would be bestiality.” I ended up doing these huge paintings of naked people and animals. Some of the female figures I copied from old Playboy magazines. I already had this strong fascination for collecting magazines and books from the late 70s and 80s. I would take the women from these magazines, edit them together with the animals in Photoshop and then paint them. So the connection with the body is something I’ve always been interested in. Everybody has a connection with the body. You look at a painting and you see this corporeality that you relate to yourself. I find this is an easy way for people to have an immediate emotional reaction and connection to an image. It’s a subject I’m still not tired of painting.
In your artist statement you say that you work with traditional art as in oil painting and “use digital techniques to cause a distinctly visual disruption to an otherwise antiquated art form”. How do you go about this? And how do you make the manipulation obvious in the actual painting?
Megan Archer: I start off by creating a collage (and that might be an analog collage, actually cutting things out of books or magazines and gluing them together, or it could be a digital collage). I then mess around with it in Photoshop; use certain tools to drag the pixels down to make it look like the skin is melting off, or cut pieces out so you can see the colours behind it… any kind of edit where it is very obvious that it has gone through some sort of major digital processing.
You claim that technology, which is supposed to connect us, carries also the danger to disrupt or disconnect us. How does this play out in relation to body, identity and sexuality, all elements that you play with in your art?
Megan Archer: That’s a tricky one. Technology is connecting us but at the same time I feel we have less face to face connections, everything is filtered through a screen. We are not as good at expressing ourselves in person as I imagine we were 20 or 30 years ago. With all these dating apps like tinder etc. people rely on it so much that it can become increasingly difficult to make connections in real life. This can also feed into personal anxieties.
It is now fairly common to have already seen nude selfies of someone before any real life sexual interaction. So you have this very flattering and potentially edited image of someone in your mind, which encourages you to imagine all the exciting possibilities this person might offer, but when it comes to real life intimacy there is often disappointment. Many people have conditioned themselves to respond more keenly to these digital messages than real life interactions.
Do you think this phenomenon exists in different parts of the world?
Megan Archer: I think so. Obviously the western world, or anywhere where technology takes such a prominent role, people are dealing with similar issues.
I think it is this prevalence of technology which has crept into so many facets of our daily lives which has fuelled my obsession with the late 70s and 80s, this era before I was even born. I have this intense nostalgia for a time that I never even experienced. I know I am romanticising a seemingly simpler time, before technology, which is not necessarily more innocent, but at least innocent of the technology-addicted world we live in today.
By “cutting out” or editing the signifiers of identity and the wholeness of your objects, do you think narrative is still possible? Are you telling a story?
Megan Archer: I would rather not have a specific narrative. I would prefer to have the work for the most part decontextualised. I think that makes it more universal. People are seeing these body parts which become icons or signifiers of humanity rather than “this is a person from this district of this country with this status,” I don’t want any of that. I want it to be relatable to anyone. When I started with these paintings, my works were being developed from collages that I had made out of books from the 70s and 80s that I found in German second hand stores. So most of the images of bodies I found were white bodies. Some of them more tanned than others, but not a broad range of ethnicities. This is when I started acknowledging that I needed to use the internet to really find a more diverse range of body types and colours because I didn’t want to create work that was only relatable to such a limited portion of the population.
How did you arrive at this particular aesthetic or style?
Megan Archer: The more work you create the clearer your personal aesthetic becomes.
My current personal aesthetic has been forming over the past five years and it contains a lot of flesh, and a lot of pastel colours. To me personally all the pastel looks like a Kawaii-obsessed teenager’s Tumblr account; this very digital-looking, almost disgustingly of-the-moment thing. Of course pastels were huge in the 80s, which were in turn inspired by the pastel looks worn in the 50s. We are always recycling and regenerating aesthetics of previous eras into strange new modern hybrids, the mishmash of various eras colliding with something more contemporary. I think this intersection between several eras can be seen quite clearly in my work.
In some of my more recent paintings I have been experimenting with less bright, pure, straight-out-of-the-tube colour combinations, allowing some tones to become a little muddier to see how it affects the work, whether they still have this digital look or whether they become more organic or academic.
I have wondered whether my geographic location influences my aesthetic, with the landscape, the cities, the nature of New Zealand, of the UK and now of Germany providing the backdrop to my creation. But it really hasn’t had much of an impact on my work. I am not consciously taking influence from my environment but rather from universal cultural aspects of the time we are living in. The internet, technology, body politics.
What is the response to your art work?
Megan Archer: People have said they feel my works are very ‘alive’, almost pulsating. The flesh tones you can almost reach out and grab them, they appear very tactile. The backgrounds, the pastel tones are more clinical. The flesh is all the more tactile-looking against the flat artificial tones. People want to reach into the painting.
What does feminism mean to you in the age of technology, body and image?
Megan Archer: I consider myself a feminist. When I was using only the images I found in books for my collages, I was extremely limited in the range of bodies represented within their pages. I became very aware of a need to include a more diverse range of bodies. I have now gone at least some way towards including more diversity but I intend to go further in future works. Because I am editing the images so heavily, the natural body shapes become less important. Sometimes I’ll just have a hand emerging from masses of almost unrecognisable flesh forms. I distort the limbs and move them around into forms which suit my composition. Although it is not the primary focus of my work, I hope people see the joyful and playful manner in which I treat bodies. I would hope that nobody feels marginalised by my work.
Who or what else is inspiring your elaborate work of today and tomorrow? What does a young painter like you read and why?
Megan Archer: I found so many artists that I connected with through Instagram. Only recently, Aline Alagem came to my studio. Her work is just amazing. When she was over here from Tel Aviv, she came to my studio and we had a great connection. I like to go to galleries of course but on Instagram you get to see the whole process of how an artwork develops. You can see into an artist’s daily life and get a better idea of how they work. I really enjoy that aspect of it.
The pop artist James Rosenquist inspired my collage painting a lot. During the 50s and 60s he was making collages and then painting them on huge canvases. I saw the works years ago in London and loved them, it was amazing seeing how far back this type of art was being produced. I actually just got back from a trip to London recently, and a friend who works at Sotheby’s gave me a beautiful big book about James Rosenquist. Such a great gift but also not ideal for someone who is about to travel to the other side of the world because it is so huge and heavy.
As for literature, I recommend Naomi Alderman’s The Power as food for thought and I always enjoy reading Murakami. I would love to paint the way he writes. A Murakami painting/book (slip of the tongue) is so beautiful. I have also just finished reading Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name for the second time. The writing is so sensuous and poetic, and Luca Guadagnino’s recent film totally did it justice.
You have been in Berlin for 5 years. What were the most important projects or collaborations during this time? Where did you exhibit and how did it benefit you?
Megan Archer: It is always interesting what a collaboration brings out of your work.
I had some group shows put together by independent curators. One at the Fellini Gallery on the topic of ‘Liberating the Female Spirit’ with another 7 female artists. It focussed on female sexuality and femininity. Another group show was with my friend David Jack, focused on the grotesque aspect of humanity. He was painting serial murderers in his very formal portrait-painter style. It was when I was making my very first collage paintings, a lot of them involving meat. A woman with a bathing suit made of meat.
Another exhibition I had with a friend, Timothy Armstrong, where we were playing with the balance between 2D and 3D, I was exploring how my collage practise could translate into paintings, and he was doing portraits of people where the contours of their faces were depicted using topographical mapping techniques drawn with pencil. The tension between 2D and 3D was what linked our work.
And of course now my solo show at the MZ Project Room in Schöneberg.
How did it benefit you here in Berlin?
Megan Archer: Living in London before, I was never able to focus enough on painting. I was working full time and I started this collaboration with a friend for a children’s book. I was supposed to be illustrating it but I had to give up eventually because I couldn’t keep expending what little energy I had left after working my full time job trying to realise someone else’s vision. I felt I could not do any of my own paintings. I would even feel guilty doing my own art because I knew I should be working on this book. It got to this horrible situation where I put so much work into this but I had to give up on it because it was too stifling.
When I came here I had to work only half of the time and could still afford to live and also afford a studio which I never had before. Having a studio opened me up to painting a lot more. Also the connections I made here, it exposes you to so many new ideas and possibilities. During my time here I started being much more prolific in my output, particularly in the last 3 years.
The most important influence I had here was being inspired by all this amazing collage art. I saw some exhibitions by Berlin-based collage artists who I discovered through Instagram. This is really what informed my current body of work. I used to paint in this very straightforward, realistic style and I had not really found my own voice as an artist yet. Creating collages alongside my painting practise was a way to express creativity in a less regimented way. So being able to combine these two disciplines that were previously quite separated gave me a way to add an element of abstraction in a way that felt quite natural to me.
How is a young artist like you determining the prices for a piece of art, and who are your buyers over time?
Megan Archer: I have had a lot of advice from people about this, and people have a lot of advice to give. But once you start having a couple of sales you become more confident about how much you can ask for a certain piece. Of course you have to add a little more to allow for gallery commissions.
Most of my buyers have been germans so far, only recently I sold a painting online to someone in the US. Somebody else bought two pieces from an exhibition I had last year, also german. I have done a few commissioned paintings for people, mainly from New Zealand and Germany but also one guy from Finland asked me to paint a portrait of his family. The collages on the other hand have been popular with people all over the world. They’re a little more universal perhaps, and more affordable than the paintings. In the end you never know how somebody is going to react or connect to your art.
What is awaiting you, a young artist nomad, in New Zealand and what are your future prospects?
Megan Archer: It will be pretty interesting to go back to New Zealand at this point because I left right after I finished university, and I left all of those connections with my peers behind. Back then, a lot of my friends were leaving because there was this huge earthquake in 2011, so a lot of us ended up scattered around the world. But now many of those people are back there and I hope to be able to reconnect with all my artist, designer and curator friends, many of whom have been doing very well for themselves. I feel I have quite a creative and strong network to go back to. I am looking forward to getting straight back into it, having as many exhibitions as possible. I have nothing specific lined up yet except for more personal plans with family and friends. I am going to live in Auckland where my best friend works as a graphic designer.
Why did it come to an end? Finished with Berlin?
Megan Archer: I am asking myself the same thing when everything here is so beautiful right now. I have never lived in a city this long before so I really feel as though it has become my home. When I came here I was staying on a work-holiday visa which you can extend as a New Zealander and after that I got an artist visa which is specific to Berlin, then I got a three-year-extension which is due to expire in October.
If I pass a language test I could stay indefinitely, but the pull of my family and friends back home has become too strong. But despite this, I am hoping to come back to Berlin for an art residency next summer!
But the main reason why I am leaving is actually for love, a touchy one.
Interview and Format © by Ulrike Goldenblatt