Artist Profile: Meg Vivers

IN A RAMBLING FARMHOUSE IN VICTORIA’S MACEDON RANGES, ELIZABETH BARNETT CREATES WITH PAINT AND CANVAS, PLANT AND HERB. BRIONY DOWNES TALKS TO THE ARTIST ABOUT HER LOVE OF ALL THINGS ALCHEMIC. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZAN WIMBERLEY.

THE AUSTRALIAN BUSHLAND has been popular subject matter for painters since long before European settlement, providing a surplus of inspiration from which artists continue to draw upon and reflect. Northern New South Wales artist Meg Vivers is one such artist, yet her keen interest in colonial women’s history – along with her early childhood experiences with the isolated Queensland bush – have contributed to her development of a highly idiosyncratic style. The histories and memories embedded within Meg’s work allow her to evoke a sense of viewing from within; it is an intimate view of trees, rocks, earth and landscapes that comes from a deep place of personal resonance.

Growing up on a cattle station in south-west Queensland, Meg developed a powerful emotive connection with Australian country and bushland from a young age – a connection that is still very much alive in her paintings today. “With this immersion came a deep love for the solitude and beauty of the Australian landscape,” Meg explains.

Mainly using acrylics and oils – occasionally dabbling with ink, pastel and charcoal – Meg works quickly and spontaneously from her breezy house veranda, building up layers of complementary earthy tones and loose semi-representational shapes. Her depictions of vast and sparing landscapes in such a free yet repetitive manner evokes a depth of shared responses from viewers; a visual sensitivity that reaches well beyond the power of words.

Holding a PhD in English Literature and History, Meg has also spent many years focusing on Australian colonial women’s writing and its importance as a useful historical source material. The artist-academic has written and published several books and poems around this topic, which she sees as extensions of her artistic practice. For Meg, writing and painting go hand-in-hand. Each tells a story about history and place, yet their contrasting mediums communicate new meanings. This allows Meg to entice a range of unique experiences and responses from readers and viewers alike.

Meg attributes her love for colour and semi-abstract shape to artist Estelle Cotsell, who she studied under during her early painting career. Her more recent paintings play with the positive and negative spaces within landscape sceneries, a visual tool she hopes will declutter her works and portray what she calls the “spatial phenomena” of Australia.

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