ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Lattices, a series of new collage-based photographic works by Meghan McKnight. This exhibition in the Project Space marks McKnight’s first exhibition at the gallery, running from Friday, April 6 to Saturday, May 5, 2018 with a public opening on Friday, April 6 at 7:00 p.m.
“I came to collage completely by accident,” says Toronto-based Meghan McKnight, as she leafs through vintage books, magazines and pamphlets with titles like Jungle Bugs, Seeds and Creatures of the Sea, the source material for her otherworldly assemblages. “I was given a windfall of old National Geographic magazines right at the time I was questioning my painting practice - frankly, whether to continue it or not. I became inspired by the images, and thought, ‘I can do something interesting with all this.’”
McKnight’s earlier paintings recalled close-ups of the ocean floor, with pearl-like beads and seaweed-like weavings of paint in shades of seafoam green or azure blue, sharing a similar fascination with the natural world as her new collage work. Like the paintings, her collages are microcosms, close examinations of what can’t be seen with the naked eye, and the physical qualities of plants, coral, insects and fish that have evolved over millennia as a means of survival. (The title of the show, Lattices, refers to the geological formation of atoms in crystals.) “I feel like I am painting with paper,” she says. “There are still the same concerns with building colour and textural relationships, and finding a distinct visual language.”
McKnight starts by selecting an “anchoring” image that determines the palette and formal qualities of the final work. She will then sift through what she calls her “piles”, but are actually meticulously organized files and drawers of clipped images with labels such as “translucent”, “bulbous” or “viruses”. “The collages come together almost subconsciously,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s not until after I’ve photographed and printed them that I see elements of mirroring or repetition in the forms I’ve chosen.” Playing with scale by photographing and blowing up the collages enhances the uncanny nature of McKnight’s work, emphasizing the texture and varying print quality of the photographs. The colours aren’t always true-to-life, being either faded or super-saturated, depending on the printing process originally used, such as Ectachrome and Kodachrome in the 1960s and 70s., and the age of the source publication. Re-photographing her collages draws out the qualities of the vintage papers, while sidestepping concerns about conservation.
“Even if I reuse the same image of a flower or butterfly wing, it will read differently at a larger scale, and by what’s adjacent to it,” she explains. “What you are looking at is not always a mystery but, at other times, it’s quite ambiguous.”
- Bill Clarke