An Exhibition at Albury MAMA 2018
Meg Sprouster is an Albury painter, working in acrylics and mixed media.
Meg has been invited to exhibit at the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) in December 2018. Her work and the work of five other local artists were selected by a panel of nationally recognised visual arts professionals, from over sixty applications.
The Largest of Ideas
On a warm morning in late November I sat with Meg at the Riverdeck Café for a chat about her art. I had seen some of Meg’s work at Wrenwood Barn and in her home, and I had read about her fascination with colour and changing light, and that is what I expected to talk about.
But soon we had plunged into discussions of abstract things — the respectful nature of birds, how to introduce yourself to wild country, and the unseen forces that galvanise our surroundings into large movements.
We talked about physics and time and the spaces between things.
And the possibility of multiple universes.
I realised I had been wrong about Meg. This is an artist with a deep affinity for colour and pattern, but she is also profoundly engaged with ideas.
“Restorative and Joyful” … Mostly
Meg finds painting empowering and exhilarating.
“On the occasions that I feel at one with the paint and brush, it’s as if the painting emerges from the canvas.”
Of course, there are times when a painter does not feel in harmony with her subject or composition.
“Sometimes the difficulty is the palette and the colours just don’t sing. These paintings hang in my home while I work out the solution. During this time I have lots of fellow artists who give critiques (my critical eyes). Some paintings can be finished in a day or two or they may stay with me for a couple of years, with changes being made. Others I decide to paint over.”
“In painting landscapes I’m fascinated by dark and light and the space between trees. I want to capture the many changes of colour depending on time of day, seasons and weather, as they elicit very different emotions.”
In 2014, Meg held an exhibition in Sydney, titled The Space Between. It featured plein-air paintings of moor hens and landscapes at Browns Lagoon in Albury, which embodied her love of colour and her fascination with the changing moods of a day.
In 2017, with fellow Albury artist Barb Strand, Meg returned to Sydney for a joint exhibition at the Bondi Pavilion. It was titled Listen to the Land.
“I watch the many changes of colour depending on time of day, seasons and weather. I want to capture the concept of time and how we conceive it, as well as the possibility of merging time. Past present and future are all there, in the landscape.”
A few years ago, on a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, Meg was intrigued by an installation by Alexander Calder. It works as a giant mobile, catching breezes and drifting with movements in the air.
Meg is fascinated by birds.
“Birds are everywhere. We aren’t really aware of them unless they make a noise, but they are all around us, all the time. …They can be perceived as the bringers of light. Messages find their way into many of my works, both deliberately and intuitively.”
Wild creatures are respectful of each other’s spaces, much more than humans are.
“In 2014 I painted a series of moor hens. I had blundered into in their home territory at Browns Lagoon. The little hens were curious and, I felt, much more respectful of me than I had been towards them. My embarrassment was breathtaking.”
A friend taught Meg something which she found both helpful and profound. He suggested that when you are about to enter a wild space you should announce yourself, by clearly speaking all of your names: your first and surnames, your maiden and married names, the names of your mother and father. This is a way of asking permission to be there.
“I paint something that moves me. I don’t have to know why. Suddenly I am alert. Often it is the light. For some reason, the place is special. That is when I begin to paint.”
Recently Meg was sketching near the Bondi Pavilion. She was concentrating on the work but aware that there was a lot of activity around her — people and birds. Suddenly, she felt a change in the movement.
“The birds had all flown together towards one place, and the people seemed caught up in the same thing. Everything had been galvanised, into one extraordinary movement.”
These days, Meg is inspired by those moments when she is aware of hidden forces, when she feels there is something she is not quite seeing.
“Experiences like this are a gift. I embrace that feeling. I don’t need to analyse it or push it down. I am always aware now, that there are things I don’t understand. This used to frighten me. These days I am more philosophical and more accepting.”
To illustrate, she tells me about a day on a Howlong property. Several people were standing outside, when suddenly the surrounding trees were filled with birds.
“They all came flying in. Nobody knew why. There must have been thousands of birds, all different species. We all just stood there dumbfounded.” Meg leans forward. “And then the birds did the most extraordinary thing. They all started leaving, in pairs.”
Everybody present felt the profundity of this strange and unexplainable event.
“Sometimes a moment in nature or a work of art can make people aware of an emotion, and they might feel ‘aha’. This will be familiar to them.”
Meg will spend the year creating and selecting work for her exhibition at MAMA. One possibility is that she may show some bird sculptures made of electrical wire.
“I feel my direction must change. I don’t know exactly where this will lead but I think my work needs to become more abstract.”
She tells me of a painting that was not working:
“After starting two paintings on this canvas, and finally in frustration gripping my paintbrush and wielding it like a dagger, I produced a work unlike anything I had done before. This painting still gives me so much pleasure. I feel it may be a future style just waiting for its cohorts.”
“As a child I looked forward to Friday afternoons not because school was ending but because we had art.”
Meg studied art during her teaching degrees at Charles Sturt and Wollongong Universities and the University of New South Wales. Then, for many years she devoted her energy to her career as a primary school teacher and to the raising of her own children. But since retiring she has developed her understanding of contemporary art practice, acquiring Certs lll and lV in Visual art. In 2013 she was granted a Diploma in Visual Arts from the Riverina Institute of TAFE.
“My learning journey with art has been physically healing and a mental and emotional evolvement.”
Meg regularly exhibits locally with fellow TAFE Art graduates. She is an active member of the Albury Wodonga Artists’ Society and The Indigo Murray Art Collective. She has exhibited in Sydney and locally, at the GIGS Art Gallery and Elvery Fine Art Gallery, Chiltern.
Meg’s 2014 solo exhibition in New Town, Sydney, The Space Between, was sold out. After many local exhibitions, she returned to Sydney in 2017, with fellow Albury artist Barb Strand, for a joint exhibition, at the Bondi Pavilion.
Later in 2017, Meg and Barb were featured at Wrenwood Barn, Bungowannah.
References and Further Reading