2010 Summer Exhibitions / Meg Walker

Birdwatching with Meg Walker

Originally appeared in the July 14th issue of the Klondike Sun.

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Meg Walker’s show, air ÷ wing, is on view at the Confluence Members’ Gallery at SOVA (3rd and Queen) through July 18th. – Megan Graham

MG: What inspired you to do a show about birds?

MW: Birds have a good thing going. If they don’t like where they are, they just up and fly to another place that has better options. And they’re generally quite graceful about the whole flying, feathery process (okay, maybe ravens and seagulls are not always graceful). Or at least that’s how it looks to humans, sometimes, and it seems we’ve collectively envied birds’ ability to fly for millennia – some cultural instances of this include the Icarus tale; Paleolithic carvings of cranes (or swans) found in caves in both the United Kingdom and Germany; and more recently the development of aviation.

That’s a pretty general “reason” – more specifically to my drawing projects, I think it comes back again to the time/durational element of drawing that I’m trying to express. If birds have such a different\ experience of space (navigating the verticals of wind; migrating thousands of kilometres) then I’ll bet they have some differences in how they experience time, too. If a bird flies across my view of the river and I take the time to watch it, I’m seeing its “drawing in the air” in a way. When I draw in the air with thread or flagging tape or whatever – spatial drawings – then the birds’ flight paths becomes a neat crossover analogy that ties the drawings into everyday life experience.

And in the winter in Dawson, it gets so quiet that when the first finches and swallows return in the spring, hearing them is a surprise, and a relief, and a pleasure.

MG:  How do you envision the line between art and science? Or is there one?

MW: I think there are many places where art and science meet and expand each other, and I think of it with a metaphor like a coastline – there are many places where the ocean and the land meet, let’s say. So at those meeting points there can be a lot of interesting exchange, and art can push science in new directions, and science can definitely inform and enrich art (sculpture, for example, has to use science all the time even if that’s not how it’s described – gravity, physics, temperature of a casting material, are all things that sculptors have to deal with). But to continue the analogy, I would say that in the depths of art and the depths of science, they exist for very different reasons, so there are lots of times when they don’t have anything to say to each other – the way the Mariana Trench in the depths of the ocean and the high prairies in the middle of Canada don’t have much interaction.


MG: How has Dawson influenced your art practice?

MW: Dawson’s remoteness has reinforced an approach that was already appearing in my art practice when I made ice sculptures that melted into more unstructured string drawings (in Vancouver).

I want to make works that visually immersive, and I’m so attracted to large-scale sculpture, but I also like the way music, conversation, eating good food, and other activities that we really enjoy, are transient experiences that we value even though they are “there and then gone.” If I create a sculpture or large-scale drawing that exists temporarily and then disappears (or is rolled back into a ball of string, for example) then I’m tapping into that desire to enjoy something in the moment without hanging on to it.

And, practically speaking, to make/store/ship large-scale sculpture to or from Dawson would eat up a lot of resources. So it’s a combination of feeling like temporary sculpture is playful/semi-magical, and being pragmatic.

The Dawson context has influenced other of my projects more directly – specifically, the ice-based string drawings and ice instruments that are so awesome to make in the winter, when we’re surrounded by the world’s biggest freezer.

And last but not least, the constant exposure to films that happens here – there are so many passionate filmmakers, and the Film Fest, and chances to play with making short films – this has given me more vocabulary in how to think about time-image interfaces.

MG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Hmm, maybe skywriting? Nothing specific at this moment actually, except a series of automatic pen-and-ink drawings that combine planty shapes with body parts (say a leafy rose and an ear).

MG: If you could be a bird, what bird would you like to be and why?

MW: Probably a swallow, because they’re so deft and small and they can change directions in the wind with impressive elegance. And I love their songs. That or an African bee-eater, which is a brightly coloured, small bird that flies from southern Africa to Provence, France each year, and seems so exotically gorgeous to me but is obviously a pragmatic bird too since its narrow long bill lets it eat bees, wasps and other insects without any harm.

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