We are all products of our landscape. Canadians have more in common with such fellow northerners as Swedes and Finns than we do with more southerly Egyptians and Mexicans.
Ottawa artist Meaghan Haughian has taken that truism to heart. The result is a new body of work, Winter Garden, on view at La Petite Mort Gallery until March 31.
Haughian is a collage artist who has taken old photographs, including some of her grandmother, and painted around them to produce a series of dreamy, haunted images in which female figures literally seem to sprout from the landscape. The figures and the landscape are inseparable.
In this recent interview, Haughian discusses her work.
What inspired this particular body of work?
A family friend died of cancer last spring, which caused me to revisit cemeteries. I had photographed a few European cemeteries almost 10 years ago (some of these are exhibited in Winter Garden). These photos have existed in my studio for several years but I’ve never been able to show them. I visited Beechwood Cemetery last summer with my camera. This resulted in dozens of photographs of fake flowers from the graves of individuals. I used these photos to create a big garden of nearly 60 framed flowers for an installation at Blink Gallery last August called Practice Saying Goodbye. I wanted to capture colour and beauty during a time of sadness, and to create a quiet, soothing space for reflection. So a number of things in the past year have led me to explore gardens and growth/decay. I realize that there is much sadness in my work… but I seek to express the beauty in that sadness, and within beauty there is hope.
Do you see these works as autobiographical?
All of my pieces have an element of autobiography, though I don’t consider them autobiographical. I explore ideas and feelings that have had a profound influence on me. Merging these elements with fiction is a reflective process that helps me understand the world and allows me to connect with others about our shared experiences.
What attracts you to the medium of collage?
I love the process of grouping images together, especially disparate ones. It’s like a puzzle that nags at me until I’ve found a solution — the solution being a pairing of images that results in new relationships and makes me see something in a new way. Using other imagery also allows me to reference elements, eras, etc., that are outside of my limited life experience, which I feel is important and strengthens my work.
What’s next on your agenda?
Except for getting married in October, I don’t have any major plans, which is refreshing! I’m looking forward to spending time in the studio without a specific project in mind. I did purchase a giant roll of paper almost a year ago that I’ve been scared to touch… I think I’ll be hanging it up soon.