The artistic frame of reference developed by American artist Meg Forsyth over the last few years seems almost clairvoyant. Hers is a world of rituals for sterility contrasted by an exuberant disarray of natural processes. She deals with themes of growth and interspecies proximity. By shifting from the molecular level—osmosis, infection, punctured skins—to the metaphysical, she is able to describe some of the defining qualities of the Anthropocene. As we continue to grow towards the outermost boundaries of our planet’s capacity to accommodate us, we must face the consequences. We must find better ways to cohabit with all the beings surrounding us, or eventually, nature will take its course and overwhelm us in catastrophic proportions. It is critical to move from being a clueless, unwilling host towards a fruitful coexistence with microscopic organisms and the broader ecosystem.
Meg is fascinated by the medical world. Reflected in her paintings are both the methodical endeavors to cure illnesses threatening humanity as a species and the choices a physician has to make on a more personal level. Individual successes—a recovery, fertilization, a more appealing posterior—are offset by questions of overpopulation and a loss of connection with natural cures and magical thinking. These canvases waver between admiration for futuristic technologies and aspirations on the one hand and a heartfelt need for balance and comforting rituals on the other. They jump from personal mystique to sterile acts.
Not all the forms present on these surfaces stem from a surgeon’s table. Plants sprout, and spores spread themselves. Cartoony flowers give the viewer a sense of hope. Glowing, alienlike fungi share a space with globules of fat and tissue. Iodine overlaps soil while graceful disembodied hands wash themselves. Together they form a thoughtful interplay of natural expansion and graphic confinement—juxtapositions of chaos and control. These forms speak to the high degree of manipulation to the natural world available to humans, while reminding us that we can never step outside of this place we tend to destroy.
These bold, vibrant new works show her background in graphic design in full force. She got her BFA from Pratt Institute in 2009 and her Master’s degree at the prestigious Werkplaats Typografie at ArtEZ Arnhem in 2016. She then led the development of the graphic identity of New York City’s, The Shed, before moving to the Netherlands and dedicating herself to her autonomous work. These compositions are the result of countless digital and analog sketches that are scaled and layered in various configurations. Selected compositions are then further developed into full-fletched paintings. She extends the metaphors of the figurative forms she draws into her use of materials. Thinned paints bleed through the often unprepared canvas like fluids push through a gauze. Transparencies are painted in ways that make them seem both organic and digital. The same goes for the layering within compositions, where the hierarchies of image editing software are translated to gestures on canvas. She works with a preset plan and her acts are very deliberate, while the materials she uses are prone to splotches and slips. Again, we see a logical; some would say natural, balance between control and coincidence—a remarkably fitting metaphor for these times of social distancing and herd immunity.