The Basement Panoramas
23 January to 1 March 2014
The Poetics of Space is French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s phenomenological take on the interior of the home. After Carl Jung, who envisioned the same space as a metaphor for the human psyche, the main floor of the house (or in his famous “house dream” the salon) was representative of normal consciousness. Bachelard went further and contrasted the attic and the cellar as two opposing spaces: the former was the space of clear, rational thought, while the latter being the dark “irrational” space of our subconscious. It is the cellar, Bachelard contended, which harboured our deepest fears as well as our memories. Sandra Meigs’ most recent body of work, initiated through her own personal experience with grief after the death of her husband in 2010, stems from this paradigm of the house, and posit the basement as a place for her own deep reckoning with the self. The massive paintings that comprise The Basement Panoramas survey the entirety of four distinct spaces—the crawlspace of her own home in Victoria, BC, built around a giant chunk of bedrock protruding out of the ground; the cavernous and multi-tunneled cellar of an established resort in upstate New York; and the cluttered basements of her sisters’ homes in Pennsylvania and Vermont. Within her depictions of each basement, Meigs tackles a singular theme (mortality, breathing, insomnia, and transformation), buoyed by a respective symbolic colour (red, blue, yellow, and grey), to illustrate the stages of her grieving process. The surface of each painting is built up with thin, opaque washes on highly absorbent grounds, resulting in flat, matte finishes. Meigs sometimes inscribes words within the corners of these underground spaces, as if she were labeling the parts of the space, or casting an incantation. The results are not unlike her previous body of work, Strange Loop, which extended some of writer and scientist Douglas Hofstadter’s ideas around a cognitive understanding of the self within flat, highly-contoured paintings depicting the interiors of stick and shingle-style mansions, and where ghost-like visages inhabit every recessed panel, stair tread, and baluster. Here, The Basement Panoramas are seemingly free of any spectral beings, present a different sort of architectural embodiment, where sadness, loss, and its subsequent renewal, are echoed within the depths of uncannily familiar spaces.
In collaboration with Georgia Scherman Projects. Work on view at 133 and 137 Tecumseth Street.