Vancouver artist Megan Majewski is as enigmatic as her paintings. Immersed in the hectic last-minute preparations before the opening of group show Inflorescence at Ayden Gallery this Friday, she fastidiously attends “some pieces that got messed up,” while answering a few questions about the ethereal world of her ghostly lost girls and spooky-cute furry animals. “I see them more as pretty than dark, really,” she says. The majority of faces one sees depicted throughout her work are those of striking young women; but the fact that they just happen to inhabit dark, surreal settings only serves to emphasize presented dichotomies between life and death, beauty and mortality, cute and creepy.
For 10 years, Majewski’s art has mapped out fantastic borderlands where our cultural discomfort with death is mitigated by beauty and, despite her own apprehension about death (“to see an actual dead person would most likely make me feel a little terrified”), she presents viewers of her art a mental oasis to soothe their urban angst. “For my girls, who are usually lost, ghostly figures, I don’t think they would ever live in urban environments. They are at home in the quiet, eerie forests.”
She notes, however, that she has done several paintings from which the deathly qualities are muted, “But maybe I don’t see [the figures] as dead, and that is just my style.” Majewski admits she loves taxidermy and follows “interesting people” on Instagram as a source of inspiration for her characters. “I think I just paint things how I see them. I like to pick out the creepy and pretty things and make a beautiful and interesting piece.”
She supposes that stereotypical depictions of death in its “Grim Reaper” guise have precluded more feminine representations because death, “isn’t really talked about, and [it is] feared so much that it hasn’t evolved much past the Grim Reaper.” Majewski’s lighthearted approach to a subject that Western culture otherwise treats with brooding solemnity is therefore refreshing.
Works with titles like, “Beautiful Life of Decay” and “Eternal Winter Circus” frame death in a surreally festive, playful light, which belies the industrious work ethic of the artist. Majewski recently completed her second “100 Paintings in 100 Days” project (admittedly a once-in-a-decade undertaking) and her production methods, as demonstrated in the project’s video, are rigorously organized and executed:
“I’m usually organized to a crazy level,” she says. “My mind has a million things going on in it and there are so many stages that I have to remember to do; so, mostly for my forgetfulness, I need to keep things organized. It also helps me to make some of the crazy deadlines I put on myself.” A project of this scope presents an enormous challenge but, “it’s a bit easier to look at in small goals. If I thought about the whole picture, completing 100 paintings would have made me think, ‘what the hell am I doing?'”
The Inflorescence (Facebook event page) group show opens Friday 12 June 2015 at Ayden Gallery, featuring Majewski and Phresha, along with several supporting artists, “all local female artists that we both admire.” Collectively exploring themes of beauty in women and nature, “it should be a really gorgeous show, with some dark undertones in some of the work.”