Megan Warkentin’s exhibition, Playing With Fire, is the final visual presentation for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Painting.
Your exhibition is currently running at FAB Gallery and showcases an interesting subject matter. How did the idea for Playing with Fire come about?
Initially, in my search for intriguing images to paint from, I came across images and videos of the British sport “cheese rolling”. I found the images striking, and my reaction to them complex. I created several paintings related to the images I found. This then lead me to many other images and videos of stupid, dangerous stunts. That, however, was really just a launching point for this body of work. The subject matter and style of the works I have created have evolved throughout the course of my time in the program, though I consider all of those paintings as one body of work, tied together by the common theme and subject matter.
What led you to become so fascinated with stunt performers?
In my work, I have always been drawn to elements of absurdity, and these types of videos are the height of absurdity, I find the idea that someone would put themselves in a situation where they know they will become injured to be bizarre and incomprehensible. In my work I have also often been interested in a viewer’s emotional response. I find these types of videos fascinating because as a viewer, you involuntarily cringe in bodily empathy, but you also cannot really help but laugh, even though someone is being injured. It brings out a viewer’s cruel side. I feel kind of bad about watching them but also cannot help but be fascinated.
Can you tell us about the process behind composing your paintings?
When I began painting at the beginning of my first year in the program, I was more closely representing the collaged photographic sources that I was using. Through the course of my time in the program, it has been my goal to be more inventive. One still image can be painted in an infinite number of ways which would all have different effects. In my process, I explore different methods and styles of painting to discover what meanings can be created and try not to have too many preconceived notions about what a painting should look like in the end. I adapt the images I choose in my works to heighten the surreal and nightmarish aspects and to evoke feelings of senselessness, disorientation and helplessness.
What can viewers expect to see when they visit FAB Gallery?
Viewers can expect to see a collection of dynamic, brightly colored works that vary in scale and style. I have composed them with the goal of creating depictions that are more representative of a subjective experience than one that is photographically accurate. I also prefer to create works that allow the viewer room for their own interpretation of it. I am interested in what a work means to them. I believe that there is not necessarily one correct interpretation for a work of art. The viewer always completes the picture with a site of synthesis or resolution. I want the viewers to find the works beautiful in the sense that they are striking, but not pretty.
What do you hope Gallery visitors leave feeling after viewing your work?
My goal as a painter is to create works that are striking and compelling both in form and subject matter that will affect viewers emotionally and leave space for contemplation. I am not interested in telling viewers what to think about any given subject matter, but to give viewers a place to confront their own emotions about it.
Presenter: FAB Gallery
Event Title: Megan Warkentin: Playing With Fire
Date: December 6-22, 2016 and January 3-7, 2017
Venue: FAB Gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building, University of Alberta)