Sandra Meigs’ Journey Back to Joy by Sandra Meigs

The award-winning artist has created a breathtaking experience in “Room for Mystics.”

By Murray White, The Star

November 16, 2017

Sandra Meigs’ “Room for Mystics” at the Art Gallery of Ontario comes accompanied with a three piece brass marching band, which performs at the gallery every day at 11:30. Photo © Christina Gapic. Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario

Sandra Meigs’ “Room for Mystics” at the Art Gallery of Ontario comes accompanied with a three piece brass marching band, which performs at the gallery every day at 11:30. Photo © Christina Gapic. Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario

One recent morning at the Art Gallery of Ontario, a three-piece brass marching band dressed in banana-yellow jumpsuits made its way from the fifth-floor elevators to a pocket gallery aswim in sunny light.

“Room for Mystics” read a sign above the door, unfurling like a big-top attraction at a particularly self-aware travelling circus — which, more or less, is what Sandra Meigs had in mind.

Meigs, 64, won the annual $50,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize back in 2015, which comes typically with a solo exhibition at the AGO the following year. Inside, the reason for the delay comes clear: 30 paintings, all made specifically for this moment, sit propped back to back on custom-made easels. A giant bright red mobile — a pair of thick-lashed eyes, peacefully shut, twirling above a placid, slow-sweeping grin — dangles languidly overhead.

Amid the brass procession — an everyday occurrence for the show’s full run, by the way, at 11:30 a.m. — a spare chorus of single notes rises and falls, perpetually wrapping Meigs’ sunny space in an enveloping calm.

“That was the idea,” she smiled, on this morning the very model of serenity herself. “To just be able to enjoy the moment.”

Peace, though, has not always been so easy. Room for Mystics represents the end of a long journey from chaos to calm. In 2011, when her husband died, Meigs felt an urgency to her grief. “It was a wake-up call,” she said. “It’s a cliché, I know, but life is short.”

As an artist, Meigs, who lives in Victoria, had accomplished nearly everything. A Governor General’s Award winner, her work has landed in nearly every significant collection in the country. But she was suddenly unsettled by the ache of loss and the elusiveness of peace. She turned, of course, to work, her persistent playfulness giving way to deep introspection. A series of colossal paintings, The Basement Panoramas, showed here at the Susan Hobbs Gallery in 2014, laid bare her grief.

Through the darkness and to the other side, Meigs resurfaced the following year here, wholly changed. All to All, which debuted at Susan Hobbs in 2015, showed a powerful shift from dense grief to joyful irreverence. Amid the brightly painted clusters of disks that festooned the gallery top to bottom, the artist herself was present: each day of the show, she played a gong at 1 p.m.

Meigs has always been a painter who strains at the convention of painting itself, eliding the polite habit of pictures on the wall for a display that subverts rather than conforms (“I’ve always considered the experience to be part of the work,” she says plainly; the labyrinth of work at the AGO is maybe its fullest embodiment so far).

But this was different. Emerging from her private pain was both deliberate and specific. To find her way, Meigs turned to meditation, to Eastern philosophy and to theoretical physics.

(Not quite the reach you’d imagine, she says: “I read Einstein’s biography at one point. Oddly, it really clicked with what I was learning in meditation. He was such an inspiring person; he could see wonder in everything.”)

Along the way, she found new ways to work that still slipped nicely into the arc of her life’s pursuit. All to All was a gleeful explosion of colour and sound.

“It was kind of a rehearsal for this,” she says, looking around the AGO space (to bring the music past the gong’s one note, Meigs collaborated with the composer Christopher Butterfield). “I loved raising the energy and the vibration in the space. It was so joyous.”

“Joyous” is an easy word here, swathed as one is, in the art museum equivalent of a warm blanket. Meigs’ paintings go off in every positively charged direction.

“Wowzers!” reads a tidy bit of script floating in a bubble of purple. A crackling gyre of bright yellow funnels slim fragments of black; placidly smiling faces float amid densely patterned balloons, a cosmos of bubbly tranquility.

They’re a breathless array of esthetic difference, nonetheless knit together. “They all came to me very spontaneously while I was meditating,” Meigs says. “I worked like crazy for two years but, really, it felt effortless. In this one,” she says, singling out a canvas overwhelmed with tendrils of undulating red, “I was generating energy. And to me, that’s an energy-generating machine.”

As the band marched slowly around the perimeter of the room, Meigs cast a satisfied glance about. “I love hanging out in here and watching people looking at it,” she said softly, as the slow, sonorous tones of the band’s spare song rose through the space. One lap, then another, and it was done, but only for today.

For Meigs, though, something else is finished here. “Each painting I have really special feelings for,” she said. “But for me, it’s really about moving on. I’m ready for the next phase of my life.”

Sandra Meigs: Room For Mystics continues at the AGO to Jan. 14. See ago.net for more information An accompanying show of Meigs’ work at Susan Hobbs Gallery, The Glass Ticker, runs to Nov. 25 (susanhobbs.com).

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/visualarts/2017/11/15/sandra-meigs-journey-back-to-joy.html

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Art Gallery of Ontario by Sandra Meigs

Sandra Meigs: Room for Mystics (with Christopher Butterfield)

Exhibition dates: October 19, 2017 - January 14, 2018

Room for Mystics, No. 1, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 58 x 72 inches. Collection of Eric & Sally Murphy © Sandra Meigs

Room for Mystics, No. 1, 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 58 x 72 inches. Collection of Eric & Sally Murphy © Sandra Meigs

For over 35 years Sandra Meigs has created vivid, immersive, and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. She derives the content of her work from her own personal experiences, and develops these to create visual metaphors related to the psyche. Through her work, Meigs wants the viewer to feel richly engaged, jubilant, and most of all, transported to an imaginary universe. Meigs is dedicated to painting and to the possibilities of enchantment that painting presents through colour and form. She believes that the very authenticity of one’s experience offers proof that what is imagined when looking at a painting is as real as anything else that one experiences in the world.

Room for Mystics is an immersive environment created especially for this exhibition by Sandra Meigs in collaboration with distinguished contemporary composer Christopher Butterfield. It comprises paintings, a wall treatment, a sculptural mobile and a sound installation that together create a unique experience for the viewer. Scheduled live musical performances will energize the installation at 11:30 a.m. from Tuesday to Saturday every week during the exhibition.

Sandra Meigs: Room for Mystics (with Christopher Butterfield) is part of the Iskowitz Prize exhibition series at the AGO. Since 2007, the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation and the AGO have joined forces in raising awareness of the visual arts in Canada with the renaming of the annual award established twenty years prior by Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988).

The exhibition is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and is curated by the Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Adelina Vlas.

http://www.ago.net/sandra-meigs-room-for-mystics-with-christopher-butterfield

 

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Royal Society of Canada by Sandra Meigs

UVic visual artist joins Canada's academic elite

September 7, 2017

Contemporary artist and newly retired visual arts professor Sandra Meigs has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC)— Canada’s highest academic honour. The title has been bestowed on only 2,000 Canadians in the 134-year history of the RSC and has just one criterion: excellence. The peer-elected fellows of the society are chosen for making “remarkable contributions” in the arts, humanities and sciences, and Canadian public life. “Academics are largely associated with scientific and theoretical knowledge, and I’ve always believed that visual art offers a special kind of knowledge—a knowledge giving form to imaginative discovery,” says Meigs. “I feel lucky to be able to meet with this large community of thinkers.” As one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, Meigs’s work has been presented at more than 100 solo and group exhibitions put on by some of Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. In 2015, she won both a Governor General’s Award in Visual Arts and Media and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize for professional artists. Meigs retired this summer after 24 years with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts and has been at the forefront of the studio-integrated learning model now used by many art schools across Canada. She’s recognized as a critically acclaimed visual artist who creates vivid, immersive and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. Drawing inspiration from philosophical texts, theory, popular culture, music, fiction, travels and personal experience during her 35-year artistic career, she creates visual metaphors related to the psyche. “Imagination and play, the exchange of ideas and forms, and a sense of wonder and discovery are some of the aspects of academia that inspire,” says Meigs. “I’d be interested in generating a project with an RSC fellow from any other area. Projects are best born when there’s no expected outcome, when there’s just a spark of creative impulse. It just takes making a connection.” The Royal Society of Canada was established in 1883 as Canada’s national academy for distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. Its primary objective is to promote learning and research in the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences. The society has named 72 current, former and adjunct UVic faculty members as fellows over the years.

Contemporary artist and newly retired visual arts professor Sandra Meigs has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC)— Canada’s highest academic honour.

The title has been bestowed on only 2,000 Canadians in the 134-year history of the RSC and has just one criterion: excellence. The peer-elected fellows of the society are chosen for making “remarkable contributions” in the arts, humanities and sciences, and Canadian public life.

“Academics are largely associated with scientific and theoretical knowledge, and I’ve always believed that visual art offers a special kind of knowledge—a knowledge giving form to imaginative discovery,” says Meigs. “I feel lucky to be able to meet with this large community of thinkers.”

As one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists, Meigs’s work has been presented at more than 100 solo and group exhibitions put on by some of Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. In 2015, she won both a Governor General’s Award in Visual Arts and Media and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize for professional artists.

Meigs retired this summer after 24 years with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts and has been at the forefront of the studio-integrated learning model now used by many art schools across Canada.

She’s recognized as a critically acclaimed visual artist who creates vivid, immersive and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. Drawing inspiration from philosophical texts, theory, popular culture, music, fiction, travels and personal experience during her 35-year artistic career, she creates visual metaphors related to the psyche.

“Imagination and play, the exchange of ideas and forms, and a sense of wonder and discovery are some of the aspects of academia that inspire,” says Meigs. “I’d be interested in generating a project with an RSC fellow from any other area. Projects are best born when there’s no expected outcome, when there’s just a spark of creative impulse. It just takes making a connection.”

The Royal Society of Canada was established in 1883 as Canada’s national academy for distinguished scholars, artists and scientists. Its primary objective is to promote learning and research in the arts, humanities, and natural and social sciences. The society has named 72 current, former and adjunct UVic faculty members as fellows over the years.

Vancouver Art Gallery by Sandra Meigs

Community Opening | September 29 | 7-9pm The Vancouver Art Gallery invites you to a special opening celebration of Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting Friday September 29, 7-9pm Opening Remarks 7:30pm Vancouver Art Gallery      RSVP      RSVP by Friday September 22 Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and co-curated by Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator and David MacWilliam, Emily Carr University of Art + Design professor. Generously supported by Phil Lind The Timothy C. Kerr Family Foundation The Vancouver Art Gallery's Leadership Circles are a group of generous community leaders who provide annual philanthropic support to the Gallery Leadership Circle Members enjoy exclusive benefits, such as complimentary admission to the Gallery, small group exhibition tours, VIP Leadership Circle Receptions and salon-style events such as artist talks and lectures. Image: Sandra Meigs, horse tack (from The Basement Piles series), 2013, acrylic on canvas, Courtesy Susan Hobbs Gallery vanartgallery.bc.ca/leadership    |    events@vanartgallery.bc.ca Please allow a 72-hour response time for all email inquiries. 750 Hornby Street | Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | V6Z 2H7 exhibitions   |    support the gallery    |    RENEW ONLINE    |    privacy policy    |    unsubscribe The Vancouver Art Gallery is a not-for-profit organization supported by its members, individual donors, corporate funders, foundations, the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Community Opening | September 29 | 7-9pm

The Vancouver Art Gallery invites you to a special opening celebration of

Entangled:
Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting

Friday September 29, 7-9pm
Opening Remarks 7:30pm

Vancouver Art Gallery

     RSVP     

RSVP by Friday September 22

Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and co-curated by Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator and David MacWilliam, Emily Carr University of Art + Design professor.

Generously supported by

Phil Lind

The Timothy C. Kerr Family Foundation

The Vancouver Art Gallery's Leadership Circles are a group of generous community leaders who provide annual philanthropic support to the Gallery Leadership Circle Members enjoy exclusive benefits, such as complimentary admission to the Gallery, small group exhibition tours, VIP Leadership Circle Receptions and salon-style events such as artist talks and lectures.

Image: Sandra Meigs, horse tack (from The Basement Piles series), 2013, acrylic on canvas, Courtesy Susan Hobbs Gallery

vanartgallery.bc.ca/leadership    |    events@vanartgallery.bc.ca

Please allow a 72-hour response time for all email inquiries.

750 Hornby Street | Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | V6Z 2H7

exhibitions   |    support the gallery    |    RENEW ONLINE    |    privacy policy    |    unsubscribe

The Vancouver Art Gallery is a not-for-profit organization supported by its members, individual donors, corporate funders, foundations, the City of Vancouver,

the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Winchester Gallery January 24 - February 11, 2017 by Sandra Meigs

En Trance:  Sandra Meigs

En Trance is a preview of 15 of the 30 paintings to be exhibited in September 2017 at the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize that Sandra Meigs won in 2015. All the paintings were completed during the summer of 2016.

 

The paintings come from meditations that give entry to unlimited force, energy, love, being and presence. This allows a radical intervention into the practice of painting. The outcome of the intervention is exuberant visual energy coming forth through the work.

 

The work utters a call to pay attention, to wake up.  Each canvas permits an unfolding encounter. We can never really know the experiencer. We can only really know the experience. As such the paintings are talismans to elevate the soul, to get the small egoic self out of the way and to allow space for living in the moment.

www.winchestergalleriesltd.com/collections/sandra-meigs-en-trance

Shaw Cable Interview by Sandra Meigs

Published on Feb 23, 2016

Sandra Meigs won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize and a Governor General's Award in the Visual Arts in 2015. Sandra is creative & playful but her work also has amazing depth and is a portrayal of her life experiences. 

Shaw TV Victoria BC 4 minute Interview with Lorraine Scollan February 2016

Shaw TV Victoria BC 4 minute Interview with Lorraine Scollan February 2016

Gershon Iskowitz Prize by Sandra Meigs

SANDRA MEIGS WINS THE 2015 GERSHON ISKOWITZ PRIZE

 The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is pleased to announce that Sandra Meigs is the recipient of the 2015 GERSHON ISKOWITZ PRIZE AT THE AGO.

The award, which is presented annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, includes a $50,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the AGO, coming in 2017.

Momus critical review by Sandra Meigs

"This brings me back to All to All and the space where the profound coexists with artistic play. In this new exhibition, the quantity and material qualities of the work push “play” at another level. As an installation it may first look and sound like its key influences were the “Ex” fairgrounds, the Party City Superstore, and a dash of Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs. Its dozens of colorful painted-paper disks are hung from small banner-like grommets, and they curl off the wall like posters or prizes. Round cookie tins filled with coins clank as they spin on motors and handless, numberless wall-clocks tick a time unknown......"    Kelly Jazvac

Read More

CBC Interview by Sandra Meigs

Recorded in Meigs' studio and aired on July 19, 2015, on CBC Radio, an interview for North By Northwest by the fabulous Sheryl MacKay. Meigs talks about making her upcoming exhibition "All to All".


upcoming exhibition by Sandra Meigs

All to All. Elevator. Group 1.

All to All

September 10 - October 24, 2015

Susan Hobbs Gallery, Toronto, Ontario

All to All                                                                                                   

In All to All everything that is the Individual is also everything that is possible in the Universe. There is nothing and there is everything. Time exceeds space. Space is infinite in immensity. Particles of matter are infinite in tininess.  

 All to All is prolific in individual forms and to be continued. All the forms are circular.  There are 10 paintings on 4’ diameter canvases, 150 paintings on 16” diameter paper, 7 chiming wall clocks that do not tell time, 6 rotating cookie tins that make a racket of noise, and 15 black plaster disks representing the Ego, in small, medium, and large sizes.  In the upstairs gallery The Bones in Golden Robes self-activate in a revolving motion. Everyday the artist will raise the amplitude of vibration throughout the space of the exhibition through the playing of a gong for 15 minutes.  In All to All there are: The Mystics (10), Elevators (30), EGOs, small, medium and large (15), the rotating Tins (6), Chiming Unclocks (7), Spinning Bones in Golden Robes (6), and a 34” Chau Gong.

 

Invitation: GG Awards Exhibition Opening by Susan Hobbs

The Canada Council for the Arts and the National Gallery of Canada cordially invite you to a reception and exhibition opening honouring the winners of the 2015 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Thursday, April 9, 2015
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Great Hall, National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Cash bar

RSVP by Wednesday, April 8, 2015
1-800-263-5588 ext. 6031
prizes@canadacouncil.ca

Visit ggavama.canadacouncil.ca to learn more about this year's winners.

If you know of someone who would like to be on our invitation list, share this link!

The Gallery and its parking are wheelchair accessible.

 


Vibrant UVic artist honoured with Governor General’s Award by Susan Hobbs

Sandra Meigs at home. Photo by Nik West

Sandra Meigs at home. Photo by Nik West

John Threlfall, Campus life, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria
March 23, 2015


Department of Visual Arts professor and nationally renowned painter Sandra Meigs was named one of only eight winners in the annual Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts on March 24.

“It’s such an honour to be recognized in this capacity for my career as an artist,” says Meigs. “You get benchmarks of recognition as you go along … but this is something very ceremonial, very special.”

Highly regarded for her expressive interdisciplinary artworks, Meigs has led a distinguished 35-year contemporary art career with over 40 solo and 60 group exhibitions in Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. “You can call it a lifetime achievement award, but in a way I see it as the beginning of a new lifetime,” says Meigs. “Some artists make brilliant work in their last 20 years, so for me it’s less lifetime achievement and more career achievement.”

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953, Meigs has lived in Canada since 1973. She earned her BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and an MA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in 1980. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists who also represented Canada in the Fifth Biennale of Sydney, Meigs has been a professor with Visual Arts since 1993 and served as departmental chairfrom 1997 to 2002.  

“We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards for all our sessional instructors,” she says of the department’s dynamic learning environment. “We focus so intensely on studio practice for the students—we look at everything very carefully, and talk about it in a constructive but critical way, how it’s related to current art context and theoretical ideas of contemporary art. It’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

Meigs also feels that living and working in Victoria is one of the factors that set her art apart. “There’s not a huge contemporary art community here, and I like the sense of delight or freedom that gives me in my studio,” she says. “I just take what I do here and show it in Toronto and people always say, ‘Oh, that’s so fresh!’”

Meigs is only the second UVic scholar to be awarded a Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, alongside sculptor and now-Professor Emeritus Mowry Baden in 2006. “This award represents ours country’s highest honour in our profession, and publicly recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to this field of research,” says Paul Walde, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts.

With 18 catalogue essays and over 60 articles and reviews, Meigs’ artistic output has been covered in influential journals such as ArtforumCanadian ArtBorder CrossingsThe Globe & MailC MagazineParachute and the National Post. Her most recent major local exhibition was The Basement Panoramas at downtown’s Open Space gallery.

“Just when you think you have a handle on how Sandra will next explore psychological or physical space, her passion and focus changes shape and direction,” notes Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The University of Victoria is fortunate to have an artist of such strong national and international reputation on its faculty.”

Meigs will be presented with a $25,000 cash prize and unique commemorative medallion by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 8 and will also participate in a special curated exhibit of 2015 winners at the National Gallery of Canada, running April 9 to August 30.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts.

Visual Arts professor honoured with prestigious Governor General’s Award by Susan Hobbs

Sandra Meigs. Photo by Michelle Alger

Sandra Meigs. Photo by Michelle Alger

Department of Visual Arts professor and nationally renowned painter Sandra Meigs has been named one of only eight winners in the annual Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts.

“It’s such an honour to be recognized in this capacity for my career as an artist,” says Meigs. “You get benchmarks of recognition as you go along—a big review in the Globe and Mail, a major Canada Council grant—but this is something very ceremonial, very special. I feel totally thrilled.”

Highly regarded for her expressive, eclectic and interdisciplinary contemporary artworks, Sandra Meigs is best known for large-scale works like The Basement Panoramas and Strange Loop. Primarily working in the mediums of acrylic and oil, she has led a distinguished 35-year career with over 40 solo and 60 group exhibitions in Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. Her work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Banff Centre, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Musée d’art contemporain. She is currently represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.

“You can call it a lifetime achievement award, but in a way I see it as the beginning of a new lifetime,” says Meigs. “Some artists make brilliant work in their last 20 years, so for me it’s less lifetime achievement and more career achievement.”

Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts Simon Brault praises the 2015 recipients. “This year’s winners are profoundly shaping Canada’s cultural identity. We applaud their innovative and powerful work, which invites us to question the state of our world and our own personal destinies in ways that we never would have imagined.”

Click here to watch a short video about Sandra Meigs’ creative practice (Directed by Ryan Mah and Danny Berish for the Canada Council, it will play at film festivals across Canada throughout the year and will be seen on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment system starting in May 2015.)

Open Space will be honouring Meigs with a reception from 5 to 8pm Wednesday, March 25, at 510 Fort Street. All are welcome.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953, Meigs has lived in Canada since 1973. She left the Rhode Island School of Art to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA. NSCAD had just become internationally acclaimed as a place of critical stimulation and theoretical discourse, where the methodologies of contemporary art were in the process of being reinvented; the spirit of this rambunctious art school became an essential part of Meigs’ thinking, and contributed to her MA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in 1980. A former Chair of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts (1997-2002), she continues to bring that critical eye to her classes.

“We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards for all our sessional instructors, who are all very good,” she explains about the dynamic learning environment upon which the Visual Arts department is built. “We focus so intensely on studio practice for the students versus doing a lot of theoretical lecturing
. . . we look at everything very carefully, and talk about it in a constructive but critical way—how it’s related to current art context and theoretical ideas of contemporary art. It’s hard for the general public to get that, because you don’t get that unless you’re here, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists who also represented Canada in the Fifth Biennale of Sydney, Meigs has been a professor with Visual Arts since 1993 and feels that working in Victoria is one of the factors that set her work apart. “There’s not a huge contemporary art community here, and I like the sense of delight or freedom that gives me in my studio,” she says. “I take what I do here and show it in Toronto and people always say, ‘Oh, that’s so fresh!’”

Meigs is only the second UVic scholar to be awarded a Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, alongside sculptor and now-Professor Emeritus Mowry Baden in 2006. She has taught painting, sculpture and foundation courses at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Toronto’s York University and the Ontario College of Art, and the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She has also been a mentor for generations of artists, among them UVic alumni Patrick HowlettAlthea Thauberger and Marianne Nicolson—all of whom have work in major public collections. Former student Kim Adams also won the Governor General’s Award for Sculpture in 2014.

“This award represents ours country’s highest honour in our profession, and publicly recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to this field of research,” says Paul Walde, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “Throughout her career at UVic, Sandra has continued to distinguish herself and the Department through her outstanding work as an artist and professor.”

With 18 catalogue essays and over 60 articles and reviews, Meigs’ artistic output has been covered in influential journals such as ArtforumCanadian ArtBorder CrossingsThe Globe & MailC MagazineParachute and the National Post. She has been awarded major grants, is a sought-after member of peer assessment committees, and has advised boards of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, CARFAC and the Canada Council For the Arts. In addition to her studio practice, Meigs writes, researches and occasionally curates. Her most recent major local exhibition was The Basement Panoramas at downtown’s Open Space gallery.

“Just when you think you have a handle on how Sandra will next explore psychological or physical space, her passion and focus changes shape and direction,” notes Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The University of Victoria is fortunate to have an artist of such strong national and international reputation on its faculty.”

Award nominator Helen Marzolf, Executive Director of Open Space, has long admired Meigs’ work. “With each successive series she surprises, jolts, and transforms how we think about the world. I have always been in awe of her confidence and audacity,” says Marzolf. “Her brilliant philosophical paintings always breathe vernacular air—anyone, no matter what his or her background, is susceptible to them. How fitting, and how exciting, for her to win the GG in Visual and Media Arts. Aren’t we lucky to have Sandra Meigs in our community?”

In response to her exhibit The Newborn in 2001, noted Toronto art writer John Bentley Mays expressed his ongoing astonishment at Meigs’ ability: “There is art and duty and sorrow and surprises and, always, the unceasing wonder—in everything, in fact, catalogued in this remarkable and intelligent installation. Ms. Meigs is a painter who thinks critically about everything—painting and thinking included.”

As Open Space’s Marzolf wrote in her nomination package, “Meigs’ artistic process resolutely follows the barest whiff of imaginative speculation into uncharted intimacies. Meigs wills us into spaces of profound, mischievous curiosity from which there is no escape. Her agnostic, non-transcendent politics offers a quantum expansion of the psychogeographies of Canadian identity.”

Meigs will be presented with a $25,000 cash prize and unique commemorative medallion by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 8 and will also participate in a special curated exhibit of 2015 winners at the National Gallery of Canada, running April 9 to August 30.

This year’s other Visual and Media Arts Award winners include Louise DéryRobert HouleMicah LexierRafael Lozano-HemmerPaul McClureRober Racine and Reva Stone.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts.

Eight Canadian visual and media artists win Governor-General Awards by Susan Hobbs

Photo by Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Photo by Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

James Adams, The Globe and Mail
March 24 2015


Eight veterans of Canada’s visual and media arts world – three women, five men – are this year’s winners of the Governor-General’s Awards for career excellence in the visual and media arts. The names of the winners, each of whom receives $25,000, were announced Tuesday morning by the Ottawa-based Canada Council for the Arts, the awards’ administrator.

Artists from Toronto and Montreal represent the single biggest bloc of winners, with three laureates from each city. The other two are from Victoria and Winnipeg. All the winners, chosen by a nomination-peer jury process, are scheduled to attend a reception April 8 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa hosted by Governor-General David Johnston. Examples of their work are to be presented April 9 through Aug. 30 at the National Gallery in Ottawa. The GGAVMAs have been handed out annually since 2000.

As has been the case from its inception, the laureates reflect the eclectic nature of contemporary art production and related endeavours.

Born in Baltimore, Sandra Meigs (b. 1953) has lived in Canada since 1973 and been based in Victoria for the past 22 years, where she’s a professor of visual arts at the University of Victoria. She’s (mostly) a painter informed by eclectic influences and varied intentions, and her works, “vivid, enigmatic,” are sometimes small, sometimes large. A 2013 mural, Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality), for example, spans more than seven metres. Writing in 2001, critic John Bentley Mays observed that Meigs “thinks critically about everything,” including painting and thinking, and he called her art “a psychological and philosophical probe” of age-old topics – “the body, light and darkness, storytelling.”

GG winning painter Sandra Meigs channels grief into art by Susan Hobbs

Sandra Meigs is one of this year's eight winners of the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. (The Canadian Press)

Sandra Meigs is one of this year's eight winners of the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. (The Canadian Press)

B.C. painter Sandra Meigs is among the eight Canadians who received a Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts this morning. On the heels of the honour, Meigs joins guest host Piya Chattopadhyay to discuss her lifetime of artistic achievement and how the creative process helped her cope with the loss of her husband. 

Meigs has won many accolades over the course of her 40-year career, but her most recent series, The Basement Panoramas, has been widely praised as her most striking. Her work has been shown widely in Canada, including at the National Gallery in Ottawa. 

"You have to actually walk with the work," she says of her sprawling pieces, adding that mindful walking helped her through the grieving process. "Everything becomes heightened in that state of slowing down and feeling your senses." 

WATCH: Canada Council's short film about Sandra Meigs


Victoria artist Sandra Meigs wins Governor General’s Award by Susan Hobbs

Sandra Meigs has won a 2015 Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts for her contributions to Canadian culture. Photograph by BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Sandra Meigs has won a 2015 Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts for her contributions to Canadian culture. Photograph by BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Jeff Bell, Times Colonist 
March 24, 2015


A life spent painting, teaching and sharing the creative process has put Victoria’s Sandra Meigs in special company.

The 61-year-old Meigs has been named one of eight winners of the 2015 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts. She is the lone winner from B.C.

“They look for people accomplished in the profession over their career,” Meigs said of the selection committee. “It’s an incredible honour, it really is, because I’ve been a professional for 40 years if you go back to my first show.”

Meigs is also a respected teacher, having spent the past 21 years with the University of Victoria’s visual-arts department.

The other winners are: Louise Déry, curator, Montreal (Outstanding Contribution Award); Robert Houle, visual artist, Toronto; Micah Lexier, visual artist, Toronto; Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, media artist, Montreal; Paul McClure, jewelry artist, Toronto (Saidye Bronfman Award); Rober Racine, visual artist, writer and composer, Montreal; Reva Stone, new media artist, Winnipeg.

“This year’s winners are profoundly shaping Canada’s cultural identity,” said Simon Brault, director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. “We applaud their innovative and powerful work, which invites us to question the state of our world and our own personal destinies in ways that we never would have imagined.”

The awards, given annually, are funded and administered by the council; this year is the 15th anniversary of the awards. Winners receive a $25,000 cash prize and will be honoured at a ceremony April 9 with Governor General David Johnston at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall.

Along with that, their work will be shown at the National Gallery of Canada from April 9 to Aug. 30 and each is the subject of a specially made short film. “That was my first starring role,” Meigs said with a smile. “It’s really quite beautiful, the work on my film.”

She noted that she has benefited through the years from funding grants given by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Her nomination came from Helen Marzolf of Victoria’s Open Space Gallery, where Meigs’ work has been shown.

Asked how people explain her style, Meigs said it certainly isn’t cut-and-dried — fitting, perhaps, considering her paintings can range from an average size you can hold in your hand to an expansive piece that runs the length of a wall.

“They describe me as someone who’s constantly surprising them,” Meigs said. “I don’t have a formal style that I’ve stuck to all these years. I do integrate narrative content into my painting, in a way that is quite unique.”

The narrative can simply be a story on a plaque accompanying the painting, or words and phrases incorporated into the painting itself.

“The Art Gallery of Ontario has one of my works in their collection called the Newborn,” Meigs said. “It has 12 individual paintings but each painting has a verse to a story.”

Just as her style isn’t set, so it is with her choice of medium. Different types of paint are good for different things, Meigs explained.

“I shift back and forth, depending,” she said. “Oil is better for some types of forms because it dries slowly and acrylic is better for others if you want faster work.”

One constant is the huge benefits that come from spending time as an educator, Meigs said.

“I’m constantly inspired by young people. Also, my colleagues are all very dedicated and the university supports research in a really strong way.”

Her success can be seen in the sheer number of exhibitions that have featured her work across the country. There have been close to 100 in Canada, as well as others in Europe and Australia.

She is currently represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.

Having her work distributed so widely is “amazing,” Meigs said.

“And that’s what this award kind of brings home to me: ‘Wow, I have done all that stuff.’ This makes me reflect on my career in a great way.”

The movies made of the award recipients will be shown on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment system beginning in May, and can also be seen on the websites for the Canada Council (canadacouncil.ca) and the Independent Media Arts Alliance (imaa.ca).

jwbell@timescolonist.com

Governor-General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts by Susan Hobbs

Sandra Meigs is an iconic artist who reshaped the philosophical terrain of painting in an era that maligned painting. Pulling from philosophical texts, theory, popular culture, music and poetry, Meigs imbues her art with disarming, strategic and, at times, mordant humour. She is an astute risk taker, whose work is led by a feral imagination, resolutely following the barest whiff of imaginative trails into uncharted intimacies.

Meigs’ searching expressionism explores deeply embedded transgressive urges, recurrent fears, and elusive anxieties. She pushes paintings’ limits, both physically — when she shifts painting into the realm of sculpture — and conceptually, as she packs philosophy into enigmatic imagery. She delights in complicating what appears to be obvious. Profound, mischievous, agnostic and rebellious, Sandra Meigs’ art offers a quantum expansion of the psychogeographies of Canadian identity.

– Helen Marzolf (nominator), Open Space