Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
My name is Meg Minett, and I’ll be going into my 3rd year of Fine Arts this fall. I’ve always been interested in art and photography, and I’ve been drawing for as long as I could hold a pencil and my father taught me photography at a young age. My main interest is in illustration and lately I’ve been experimenting with digital art as well. I hadn’t planned on majoring in Fine Arts; the plan was to become an English teacher and do my art on the side as a hobby. However, the more fine arts courses I took, the less interested I became in my English and history classes. I decided to switch my area of study and I’ve been happier ever since. As an only child there are certain expectations that I’m expected to live up to, especially being the only artist. I think that my family was a little weary that I’d be a starving artist for the rest of my life.
The plan is to hopefully finish my last year at NSCAD in Halifax, and eventually I’d like to have a bachelor's degree in both Fine Arts and Art History. I decided on Halifax because the beauty of the east coast has always struck me, and honestly I just cannot afford to live in British Columbia anymore. Here’s hoping I survive east coast winters! The endgame scenario is to open a space for artists to use as an open studio, as well as offer life drawing lessons and various workshops for all skill levels. Art has always been a form of escape for me, so I want to open a welcoming space where others could come and escape into their own worlds as well, but without secluding themselves from other people. I wanted to come on this trip because when I was in Europe last I didn’t have the knowledge or appreciation for art or architecture that I have now. I’ve always loved travelling and have been itching to get out of Canada for a while. I’m in a place in my life right now where I’m able to travel, and I knew I’d regret not going; especially with a group of people who are studying and interested in some of the same things that I am.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London or Venice so far?
Venice has surprised me in ways that I’m not sure how to articulate. Growing up you hear about and see pictures of Italy and Venice, but it had never felt real to me, it felt like a fairytale that one would tell to their kids. I honestly never thought that I would ever get to Venice, or Europe for that matter. Everything here has exceeded my expectations in the best way possible. Venice is beyond beautiful, but I wasn’t prepared for the heat or humidity. I’m the type of person who doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures of any kind, and I’ve found myself drained more than anything else. I’m seriously longing for the clouds and rain that we left behind in London. If I were to ever come back to Italy, it would definitely be in the colder seasons. I really feel like I’m not able to really appreciate my surroundings because all I can think of is when I’ll be in an air conditioned building again. However, sitting next to the ocean and watching the sunset almost every night here has given me such an appreciation for life. The food has also been a massive upgrade from London, and the pizza is to die for. I did also have the chance to go to Lido beach, and I actually swam in the ocean for the first time since I was a small kid. Italy is beautiful, and I can’t wait to come back to see Rome and the quiet countryside.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
My assigned work was Valie Export’s Action Pants: Genital Panic (1969). An Austrian artist, Export has worked to create pieces and performances that speak to her own identity as a woman. Genital Panic: Action Pants was originally a performance that had Export strutting around a cinema in crotchless pants. Export had no intention for her work to be in an art gallery, and the six photographs hanging in the Tate Modern are just a product of that performance. What struck me most about seeing them in person was how small the photographs are. I missed them twice while searching the gallery. I noticed many people passing them by without a second glance as well, which was disappointing because they are magnificent photographs. The context for me didn’t really shift at all, but I did gain a greater appreciation for the artist and the work. It was honestly surreal to see the photographs in person, especially with the knowledge that she never intended for them to be placed in a gallery. What struck me most was the detail that I was able to make out, much easier than looking at them on a screen; and just seeing her expression up close was much more impactful.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
I approached this task in the way that I wanted to be in line with Export’s in-your-face style. When she did Genital Panic she walked among the audience with her crotch face-level to people. I wanted to emulate this by hanging my paintings face level with my audience, keeping in mind the height differences of my classmates by staggering the height of the pieces (see Meg’s two art projects below in dialogue with Mellor and Export). The main challenge I faced was making work that lived up to Export’s. As an artist I’ve always struggled with the question of ‘Am I good enough?’. I was especially nervous making a work that responded to a global artist who is recognized across the world. I think I hit the nail on women's rights and identity that Export is so expressive about. If I were to do it differently now that I’ve seen the works in person, I’d make 6 pieces instead of only 3, and I would have dropped my more illustrative style in favour for a realist approach. I’ve often annoyed my profs with my paintings, as I’ve always preferred illustrations rather than realism and classical painting. This often surprises people because I’m not quiet when it comes to my love of classical and traditional works; I just find illustrations more visually interesting to paint. Looking back this didn’t really work with this assignment, and my work felt out of place in comparison to Export. I wish I had done something with photography as it would have worked better if I had experimented with film, but it’s something to keep in mind for the future.
Today’s activity was located at the Venice Biennale (Arsenale and Giardini venues). What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Today’s activity was located at the Venice Biennale at the Arsenale and Giardini. My first and immediate reaction was that I was way out of my element. A lot of the works that I saw I had no idea what to make of. I’m not a fan of contemporary art, something that I’ve never hidden and I’m not ashamed of. There were a lot of photographs and paintings that I did love, but the majority had me scratching my head. This really made me question myself as an artist again, because if I’m not able to understand these works, then what am I doing in this industry? I can appreciate contemporary art and performances for what they are, but it’s never been my main focus, even though a lot of my own work could be considered contemporary. The experiences that I’m going to take away from this day is that I’m going to start looking into and taking contemporary art far more seriously. It made me understand that this is the direction that the art world is going, and if I want to make a name for myself in this industry, I’ve got to catch up and get with the program. My own work doesn’t have to be as out there as a lot of what I’ve seen, and even though painting is coming back, if I don’t make an effort to understand and appreciate these works more I’m never going to get anywhere. My own aspirations don’t revolve around my work being showcased in galleries; that’s never been my goal as an artist. I’m much more focused on helping people find their own way as artists, but if I have people working around me who are interested and working as contemporary artists I’d like to be able to have educated conversations with them about it. This show has lit a fire in me, and I’m excited to see where it takes me in the future. The most memorable moment for me in this show was seeing the piece that was chosen for me. Jon Rafman’s Dream Journal was by far the most wild and out of the box work that I experienced at this show. It was like the artist had taken far too much acid before sitting at this computer, and honestly at first I hated it. I was so confused as to why I was assigned this artist as it’s so out of the realm of my own practice. Now I understand that this work has made me think more on what art can me, and I appreciate this piece for opening my eyes to the possibilities.