In the Studio / Megan Rea
Megan Rea recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art and was the winner of our Open Contemporary Young Artist Award 2017.
Megan's work explores the interplay between a building's structure and its use by creating architecturally-based abstract spaces through model making, painting and installation.
To find out more we spoke to Megan about how she works and where she draws her inspiration from.
Tell us a little about yourself and your practice.
I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2016 and now live and work in London.
My practice focuses on creating abstract architectural spaces through the reinterpretation of our built environment. Durable geometric structures, mechanical bridges and ornately patterned facades have been my central focus for this body of work. I enjoy exploring the interplay between a building’s structure and its purpose, and how it becomes lost and rendered useless in its simplified form. I aim to isolate and glorify the make-up of shapes that surround us, revealing regularly used space that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
I construct card maquettes of architectural points of interest which are used as tools to visually deconstruct their original design, and translate them into two dimensional painted forms. The colours in the paintings are enriched and exaggerated to contrast the remote abstract models.
"I enjoy exploring the interplay between a building’s structure and its purpose, and how it becomes lost and rendered useless in its simplified form."
When did you decide to pursue fine art?
Seeing Peter Doig's exhibition at Tate Britain in 2008 had an enormous impact on me. I think that was the moment I knew I wanted to be an artist. His work is so visually arresting and the scale of his work allows you to be sucked into the scene he's depicting. I'd always been a keen drawer but it was after his show that I experimented more with paint.
What was your experience like at Edinburgh College of Art? How did your practice develop during this time?
ECA was a great place to study. Edinburgh has a spectacular range of architectural styles which inspired me from the start of the course - my final piece in first year was an abstract interpretation of the angular glass roof at Waverly Station. I began experimenting with architectural models midway through the degree, often incorporating plastic and other materials, and it was during final year that they became an important part of my practice.
Please tell us more about your winning piece in our Open Contemporary Young Artist Award 2017.
She saw it on the way to the homeware department is inspired by the escalator at John Lewis in Edinburgh. I was taken by its dominance in the space and made a card model of it when I got back to the studio. The painting features a heavily deconstructed interpretation of the model and the marks in the background mirror the forms on the escalator itself. I prefer working on a larger scale as it allows you to be more expressive and work through mistakes.
Tell us about your studio space. Where are you currently based?
I have a shared studio space in converted Network Rail offices next to the tracks by Waterloo station. I share with five other artists - three painters, a mask maker and an illustrator, but there are about 70 artists in the building altogether. It's a very vibrant, varied and social space to work in.
Could you tell us more about your working process, techniques and inspiration?
I do a lot of quick doodles on the move and small drawings in chunky felt tips. I work a lot from photos that I've taken of architecture whilst travelling and often go straight to making a model. I find it much easier to work from something in its three dimensional form and then I'm able to break it down into simpler shapes. I can draw inspiration from almost anything - paintings in this exhibition have developed from a garden wall, the structure of a Vietnamese church and a bridge in Glasgow.
You have mentioned your work is heavily inspired by architecture. What architectural styles are you drawn to? Are you interested in pursuing architecture further?
Yes, definitely - I have a long term plan to build an abstract architectural installation that will fill an entire exhibition space. I would like the structures to be interactive in some way and invite people to walk under or over them and display some corresponding paintings. Hopefully I can do this within the next five years or so. Brutalist and Bauhaus design is my favourite, I love the harsh angles and simple shapes that they promote
"I can draw inspiration from almost anything - paintings in this exhibition have developed from a garden wall, the structure of a Vietnamese church and a bridge in Glasgow."
Which artists inspire you?
Toby Paterson has been a continuous inspiration, his industrial paintings and sculptures explore the space between reality and abstraction. His exhibitions are always very slick. I am of course greatly influenced by a number of architects, especially Sou Fujimoto and Tadao Ando, and of course Peter Doig. Instagram is a fantastic platform for discovering new artists so I'm inspired by different practitioners everyday.
What advice would you give to young artists trying to make it in the industry?
Start by just making work that you enjoy, do it purely for yourself and people will pick up on that. Apply for as many open calls, competitions and scholarships as you can to build up a great portfolio. Attend exhibition openings to get chatting to others in the industry and note what you think are strengths of the show.
What is your favourite piece in your new collection? Is there a story behind it?
At the moment One mile, Two Peaches is my favourite. I won a scholarship in Autumn 2017 to draw the architecture in Florence for a couple of months which was an incredible experience. The painting was inspired by one of the extremely grand outhouses in the Boboli Gardens which I visited a couple of times. I made sure to pass by one of the many fruit stalls on the journey over there.
She saw it on the way to the homeware department
One mile, Two Peaches
If you would like to find out more about Megan Rea and her work, please contact the gallery.