Aquatic Origins, an exhibition of the artwork of Michelle McGauchie opened at the Leonard E. Shore Memorial Library Gallery on Saturday, June 3rd.
The stylized work of Michelle McGauchie has been described as satirical and metaphorical, the kind of exhibit that may change the way you look at the world. The artist creates a micro and macro duality, playing on the surface of the figures, signifying the ongoing exploration beyond the surface of the flesh. This involves the metaphorical splitting of atoms, personas and psyches; thereby providing a better view of the artist’s interpretation of the female icon. The work takes on a life of its own as with the pieces of a puzzle, that are put together in such a way, that the frantic disruption of the forms takes on a topographic quality. Michelle’s artwork is geared towards asking new questions, creating change, and cultivating a socio-political voice for the female.
Michelle has worked as a painter for many years and has recently started designing and directing short art films. Her work has been shown in a number of cities including Toronto, Madrid and Barcelona. She resides in Toronto, but spends much of her time in Madrid, and in her forest in Grey County.
When asked about her inspiration for her paintings, this is what Michelle had to offer:
My intent on writing to you today is to give some clarity towards the images on the walls before you. Breathe. Oh how exposed I feel, but my greater need prevails. I can no longer lie on my back, stagnant, hearing the silence of the conches. So here I stand before you in all my guises and personas, naked, plastered on two-dimensional surfaces. My wondrous colours, shapes and forms expressed through dried liquid and cloth as new and unrefined as the day I was born. Which brings us to a starting place in this letter of explanation: the Beginnings. I have adored fairy tales, mythology and the psychological theories behind archetypes since I was a little girl. I have always been drawn towards understanding beginnings, the source of all things. While there are four elements in all, my main focus within this body of work concentrates mostly in Water (blood) and Earth (flesh) and all that that these entail. In ancient times water and earth represented to the Egyptians signatures of the feminine. They called her “the Great Mother, Temu, the Deep”.1 She produced the first materials of existence, which were Water, Darkness, Night and Eternity. As the story goes, this Spirit that originally floated over the dark waters of chaos was female. Most myths surrounding Temu describe her as the primordial Ocean of Blood, the generative womb of all, the Deep in her condition of “dark formlessness” when she possessed all things in potential only.
This filament of thought, where existence comes from ‘Mother’ persists throughout my work. A search for the potential of finding a shape, finding a tangible and finding an umbilical cord in this “dark formlessness” gives me inspiration to seek my great grandmothers, my mentors, my ghosts and all the other women-folk, dead or alive, that have nurtured and given direction to fashion my identity. With their essence present, they have been placed in the corners and crevices of mouths and eyes, fish bones and tentacles, butterfly wings and humming bird tails, red cloth and pearls; all various expressions entrenched in my need to understand where I come from. Now some would say my labored work emits subterranean forces based on Magical Realism and/or Surrealist Movements, and I would have to reply that they are probably right. For the things I comment upon are located in the vein between illusion and reality. A personal commentary through the language of image, I have tried to recapture a version within the evolution of the Feminine and the Sacred. Discerning ‘degrees of resolve’ within the painter and women, in general each piece becomes a psychic-archaeological dig in the stages of life from Maiden to Crone in a search for ‘herstory’, ‘her’ initiation rites and ‘her’ accumulation of personal lore. This collection of paintings on a more contemporary level, (literal format) have become personifications deeply rooted (investigations on issues surrounding) in women and ecology.
Dark, earthy, and raw each of these paintings encroaches upon isolating interpretations of reality (and/or illusion) through the use of symbol and metaphor. You could call it a form of soundproofing if you like. Each canvas is almost as if it were a room where I can involve myself in the most solid escapade of the spirit, in the company and conversation with my painted characters.
Centred in dreams, impassionate conscious and unconscious realms, these returns to imaged things become distinct connections capable of little openings where the ebb and flow of fiction and truth can travel. They become nodes of ‘happenings’, which I try to address, that are usually unseen, abstract and indescribable. These ambiguous spaces between what is most pressing in my autobiography involve taking the risk of plunging into my personal politic as if it were a valid category; an adequate landscape that I hope then extends to create inquiries on a plain where others dwell as well. “The female fertilizing force. Carrying pollen from one place to another. She cross-fertilizes, just as the soul fertilizes mind with night dreams, just as archetypes fertilize the mundane world. She is the centre. She brings the opposites together by taking a little from here and putting it there.” 2. These transformations are what I speak of, are what I question, are what I create.
I hope these vague paragraphs answer at least some of your most urgent questions. With a good bottle of wine and a more relaxed environment I could go on and on in greater detail but we have run out of time I’m afraid. I have a gala opening to attend to. I hope through this short introduction I have given you at least a starting point to mull over, the rest is up to you.
If you have questions about the exhibit, please contact:
L.E. Shore Memorial Library
183 Bruce St. S.
P.O. Box 580
Thornbury, ON N0H 2P0