Q + A: Meg Lewer

WORKING FROM HER STUDIO CUT INTO A ROCK FACE ON THE NEW SOUTH WALES COAST, ARTIST MEG LEWER CREATES SWIRLING INK-BASED WORKS WITH POETRY TO ACCOMPANY THEM.

Where are you based?
Growing up in Brewarrina, my art has been influenced by many childhood memories of the harsh Australian outback. Relocating to the Central Coast [of New South Wales] five years ago, I am finding a softness and difference of light coming into my work as we are surrounded by so much water and greenery here.

What is your studio like?
My studio has been hand-hewn from the solid rock face on which my house is built. I actually descend though a trapdoor in the lounge room floor! It faces across the water and I love to see the tall sailing ships slip silently by my window.

When do you feel your most creative?
I’m most creative in the early hours, working on two or three pieces at a time and listening to a 1950s station on my old radio. Often ideas will come to me in the middle of the night, so I keep a pad and paper beside my bed to scribble these down.

Is there are particular material you use most often?
After many years of experimentation with watercolours, pastels and oils, I felt my work had no magic or mystery – then I stumbled across the relatively non-traditional medium of spirit-based Inks. They add a vibrancy and movement to my work. These inks swirl and move of their own accord, but they need manipulation and control to reign in their playfulness and allow me to echo the spirit and aura of the subject. They are simply magic!

How exactly do you manipulate these inks?
The inks are applied in a manner very similar to watercolour as the alcohol acts in a similar manner to the water. I begin with a wet wash for the sky, letting the coolers blend, swirl and settle where they may. Then small brush strokes are applied. Pushing the boundaries, like the pioneers of watercolour once did, I sometimes use a palette, knife, cling wrap, tangible fibres, ripped paper and even old torn onion bags.

What themes are evident in your work?
I like to include a poem with my work, as an explanation of how and why this painting was created; to remind us all of the ghost fishing nets that silently patrol our oceans, deforestation, early Australian history, the medicinal purposes of dried seed heads, or whatever it may be. Maybe I was a teacher in another life.

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