meghan hildebrand

Meghan Hildebrand: Restless Fables

Meghan Hildebrandā€™s colourful semi-abstract works explore storytelling and re-imagined landscapes. Her ambiguous narratives and playful dream-like imagery draws the viewer in, inviting them to create their own story. In Restless Fables, Hildebrand investigates the relationship between nature, culture and identity through the motifs of masks, animals, maps and globes.

2013 Nov 30 – 2014 Feb 16

Curated by Jessica Demers

Hildebrandā€™s use of bright colours, her dynamic painterly style and playful imagery lends her work strong popular appeal. Her frenetic, dreamlike landscapes are reminiscent of childrenā€™s storybooks, yet the plot is undefined. Hildebrand offers the setting and a few characters, and invites the viewer to create their own narrative.

In this new body of work, Restless Fables, we have zoomed out of Hildebrandā€™s dreamscape and can now see it as a whole – as a planet unto itself. With the subtle inclusion of eyes, the turbulent surface becomes a face or mask. The individual and the collective become symbolically united in a sphere of activity. The flat, neutral backgrounds of these new paintings are also a departure from her previous work. The round images read more as individual objects than part of a landscape beyond the picture plane.

Hildebrandā€™s upbringing in Yukon, rich with storytelling and exposure to aboriginal art, shines through in her use of animal imagery and the mask motif. References to Inuit art are apparent in her radiating drop-like shapes and mirrored bird forms. The circles divided into four quadrants are reminiscent of the First Nations medicine wheel, although this relationship was unintentional on Hildebrandā€™s part. Animal characters of Western and Eastern astrology are also suggested in the re-imagined constellations of the zodiac encircling the earth.

While creating this body of work, Hildebrand reflected on her role as a ā€œproducer of cultureā€ in the context of colonization. While her imagery loosely refers to aboriginal art, she does not appropriate it for her own benefit. Rather, her unique visual language is open-ended, inviting us to generate our own meaning, drawing on our own cultural experiences.

Artist Statement

Themes of storytelling and re-imagined landscapes figure prominently in my paintings. I aim to create ambiguous narratives that draw the viewer in, to then create her own conclusions, and to keep those conclusions alive and shifting.

In creating the work for Restless Fables, masks came about as a way to combine place, memory and sense of self. My childhood in the Yukon was rich with art and storytelling. In particular, the indigenous art affected me with its stylized representations of nature and animals in dreamlike compositions. The European fables and fairytales I enjoyed were less mysterious, but also used animals and mythological creatures as allegory for human stories. When I started to create my own work, what emerged were landscapes inhabited by animals and symbols, but with the narrative unexplained, leaving room for active engagement between the work and the viewer. The mask is a way to further invite a viewer into the work ā€“ the face is so identifiable and universal, yet we can each relate to it in such a personal way.

In the past, I had always perceived culture as other. Something belonging to someone else somewhere else. Even though I work in the ā€˜cultural sectorā€™, being a privileged Canadian didnā€™t inspire me to believe my life worthy of being considered part of a legitimate cultural tradition. But a friend suggested otherwise, and I was introduced to a more fulfilling way of thinking. When you consider that culture is born from oneā€™s own experiences and ways of understanding, we each possess and participate in cultural history. Therefore, our thoughts and actions are significant. With all that we think and do, we play a role in what will be known as cultural history. As we allow ourselves to grow and change, we are creating our story – we are the animals inside restless, unfinished fables.

Artist Biography

Born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, Hildebrand has had a strong following in Nelson since she graduated from the Mixed Media program at the Kootenay School of the Arts (now a program of Selkirk College) over twelve years ago. In the middle of her studies at KSA, Hildebrand went to Halifax to study for a year at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. After returning, she completed her diploma at KSA, and later mentored under senior artists including David Alexander (currently exhibiting in gallery A). Hildebrand has shown her work in many locations throughout Canada, but primarily in BC and Yukon. She has also completed numerous commissions including artwork for the Nelson Wine Festival, Kootenay Moving Pictures Festival, and the Shambhala Music Festival. Hildebrand is now based out of Powell River, BC.

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