Pocket Estates opens March 9, 2019 at Madrona Gallery, 606 View Street, Victoria, BC.
My friend, artist and writer Theresa Slater, has written this essay on the new collection, I hope you enjoy it!
Pocket Estates is a kaleidoscopic series of acrylic paintings by Canadian artist, Meghan Hildebrand. The title of the series acts as a poetic device to interpret and engage with the symbolic language of this prolific painter. Hildebrand’s current work is built upon multiple containers of narrative - it is explosive; dense; layered; and full to the brim. Remarkably executed, these paintings announce that the universe is a plenitude of things, spirits, and tales.
The underlying principle of the universes as whole and full, allow each piece to represent a singular and complete universe (albeit magical, sensuous, spirit-inhabited, and sometimes post-apocalyptic) that sits within a larger contextual series of contemporary economies and history. Within each painting, an estate; within each estate, a spontaneous colour field whose function transcends ornamentation while offering a fractal effect echoing substantial narration. These expressive ‘pockets’ host meticulously executed characters who are embodied with emotive faces and agency. They have a story tell - it’s your undertaking to hear them.
This analysis positions Hildebrand’s work as maximalist in optical sensation, narration, and artistic procedure. Her amplification and evaluation of modernist abstract tendencies are met with a dizzying array of symbolic efforts and techniques producing work that is sublime in its complexity while maintaining ease in its enjoyment. Unpacking her technical procedure allows for insight into how the work functions contextually.
Pocket Estates expands Hildebrand’s practice by centering atmospheric perspective exemplified in Soundstage (48 x 66, 2019). This new approach to add a shadow line under larger ‘pockets’ of gesture, creates the optical illusion of push and pull between the foreground and background adding tension and interest. Hildebrand uses multiple layers and figures which compete in tension leading the viewer's eye throughout the composition, illuminating a full canvas. Evident in most Maximalist work, Hildebrand's compositions emphasize shape and pattern, with a vibrant colour palette offering some instances of select black moments reminiscent of early expressionists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (b. 1880) or Perle Fine (b. 1905). This dimension obscuring use of black is evident in the series namesake, Pocket Estates (48x66, 2019). Hildebrand accentuates optical sensation as her dense compositions focus on the interplay between colour, form, and movement. Hildebrand's Dinner Bell Collector (48 x 66, 2019) positions movement as a key formal element in her series, the flow of logs define a direction for the viewer and the perceptual colour mixing dots add visual dissonance. More is more in her legendary style, allowing for multiple art modes to be activated while utilizing technical knowledge that emphasizes discovery and multiplicity in the narration. The series is held together formally in the repetition of motifs. Many of these motifs are signature marks, indicating the continuous and habitual language of her painting technique.
Hildebrand’s technical prowess comes from a committed creative process focused on problem solving and visual ambiguity resolution. She begins to work intuitively to energetically cover the canvas, then selects and accentuates points of tension and ease within the voluminous colour forms. Everything she loves about a painting happens fast at the beginning of the expression. Following this moment of creative responsive mark-making, her focus becomes calculating which specialized symbolism is required to finish the work. Hildebrand’s commitment to colour is demonstrated at the onset of the creation when her palette is comprehensively chosen and honed based on hue, value, and mood. Pocket Estates revitalizes perceptual visual colour mixing, adding interest and art historical reference to Op Art and Pointillism. She is careful of adopting artistic appropriation and maintains a post-modern denial that everything is available for citation. Assuredly Hildebrand’s ideation and execution have more than enough punk-rock intentionality - it is individualistic, unruly, and rebellious. Her effort to stop sooner is evident in Peaches of the Moon (36 x 30, 2019). The effort of this important artist is to remain discerning about the movement and gestures, to remain attentive and active while honing and equalizing the abstraction of expressive painterly magnitude into harvestable worlds and stories.
Pocket Estates series is exemplary at functioning as a perceptual puzzle or code. Each colour pocket becomes an escape window into an imaginary landscape where viewers are enveloped by chroma and captured by whispered stories. Hildebrand’s audience participates in these eerie and enchanted narratives by piecing together interactions between the colliding characters and patterns. She successfully administers worlds full of coalescent communities and energetic interplays of storytellers and does so miraculously without representing the human form.
Hildebrand asserts there are no morals, judgments, or ethics inherent in the conceptualization of the work. Rather, it is a simply innocent and astonishing discovery that is mobilized in the artist and audience alike. The general attitude of the artist, like the work, is approachable and welcoming. She deliberately avoids instructing her audience to behave and interpret the work in a particular way. The artist maintains and encourages painting as a refuge and the work resists figurative representation for this reason. Hildebrand is a master of representing the traces of people, she paints what they leave behind; their footprint remains and stain.
The histories present in the series are personal, colonial, and regional. The economies of forestry, mining, fishing and homesteading are markers of place that inform Hildebrand’s painting process. These landscapes speak to miraculous Canadian resources extraction, whose logs and water are harvested without labour and ownership. In Level Up (40 x 36, 2019) the characters, ghosts, or acorn spirits function to add narrative by fostering community and mirroring family. The artist’s creative process includes the solace of nature walks, where things felt and unseen watch her move through the forest. The forests awareness is present in her paintings. Her poetic exposition of landscape and narration, utilizing the mandate that more is more delivers an astute series of work; Pocket Estates is a reflection on the mark we leave in the world and the stories therewithin.
Theresa Slater is an artist and writer who works with creative facilitation, ethical theory, new materialism, digital bodies and the intersections of feminism and technology. She is an MA graduate of Contemporary Art, Design and New Media Art from OCAD University in Toronto, Canada.