Painter, collaborator, community artist and co-organiser of First Thursdays Auckland – Meghan Geliza is an energetic part of Auckland’s thriving visual arts scene. She took some time out from preparing for her first solo show to chat with Renee Liang.
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Meghan Geliza is a lover of colour. From the bright hues on her paintings to the intricate detailing on her own tattoos, this is one woman who actively seeks to make her world more vibrant. She’s got an energy to match.
I first met Meghan during Metonymy, the artist-writer blind dating collaboration project I help to run every year. Soon I was going to her for advice with getting the word out about gigs, making e-cards, social networking, you name it, Meghan could always help, or knew someone who could. She’s actively growing her community too - Meghan is one of the creative spirits behind First Thursdays, the community arts event taking over more and more of K Rd, four times a year. I asked her a few questions over coffee.
What made you start painting?
It is something I've consistently done since I was a kid. I used to draw/paint Disney characters, my mum's cookbook photos, landscapes of places I've been to from memory. My earliest adult memory of getting back to painting was when I discovered amazing surrealists and Pop\Surrealists like Dali, Mark Ryden, Gary Baseman, Camille Rose Garcia, The Clayton Brothers. Prior to that I never thought of becoming a painter professionally because I never really identified with any other genre of art. Finding those surrealists was such a relief, it was like finding my way back home. I've always been deep into literature and was always interested in stories or delving into various things. I could get obsessed learning about multiple things at any given time - science, history or anthropology-wise. Being a surrealist satisfies my cycle of bringing in things to my psyche and then eventually bringing it out on my paintings.
What was your first 'real' painting like?
My first surreal painting was of this little girl with a bulging eye. It was mostly black and yellow and I called her "Baskerville", after the font, 'coz I was into typography at the time.
Why do you use animal motifs in your work?
They seem, at least to me, a purer expression of an idea compared to humans. I'm hoping for resonance within the viewer, without them getting distracted by that being's history…or hang-ups.
Are the works autobiographical?
It's my world view, or how I interpret things, my encounters with people, experiences.
What mythical stories inspire you?
Everyday stories inspire me more than myths. What I find inspiring on myths and old stories are the imagery.
How do you start the process of a new painting?
I start by writing actually, not sketching. I would write various words on my sketchbook, say themes, experiences, imagery or ideas I want to explore. Sometimes I would write full stories. I would then sketch fragments of that painting separately, before sketching out the composition. Most of the time the composition sketches are rough so I can leave room for spontaneity when I'm painting. I like to think when I'm actually painting that I'm conversing with it, waiting in between what it shows me as it evolves then responding to that, rather than imposing all of my initial plans to it. I like to keep the initial stages fairly loose for that purpose.
How has the work you've done previously synthesised in this solo show?
The works have gotten bigger and more detailed, and the fragments or scenes I was exploring then have congealed now to this full functioning alternate universe, that I have a better understanding of.
What new ideas are you exploring for this exhibition?
I've expanded on the ideas of implosion and explosion, archetypes, giving more clues to the viewer on the metaphor for my paintings by using more supporting imagery, texture, scale.
How does collaboration change how you work?
It changes in the sense that now there's a person to get a feel of before I start writing ideas. Conversations become a big part of the process, and keeping it even more loose in the initial stages to make ample room for them to go nuts with our idea. I like collaborations. It takes you away from your usual default processes and you come up with surprising results.
Why is First Thursdays important to our community?
It is a great venue for Auckland creatives like musicians, artists, djs, crafty folk, etc. to come out of the woodwork, band together for an evening, and showcase themselves and their work, in an environment that encourages the general public to participate with them. Forming and encouraging creative communities like First Thursdays is vital to our city's culture for sure. Human connections are made and things get borne out of these events (like new collaborations, projects and commissions) and the creative community can only come out stronger from that.
What is the benefit of being involved in community arts projects?
Growth. You expand and go beyond what you know and what you currently practice. Artists can get too carried away being cocooned in their own bubble so it's important to come out of that from time to time and be part of something bigger than yourself.
Can you talk about your mural project?
It was for the Henderson Community centre, I was one of a few other artists who painted several murals for the building organized by the founders of the Ergo Collective.
Te Karanga Gallery presents Adieu False Heart, a solo exhibition by Meghan Geliza, 28 April - 11 May, 2011
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