Image: Megan Rooney - Immersion and Revelation
Megan Rooney, Eyes on Arcadia (Dancing). 2023, acrylic, oil, pastel, and oil stick on canvas, 270 x 580 x 4.5 cm. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul © Megan Rooney. Photo: Charles Duprat
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Megan Rooney - Immersion and Revelation Review by Adam Jasper

June 2023
Paris Marais
Do you remember the first time you looked out of the window of an airplane ? Perhaps a childhood experience of looking down on clouds, your visual acuity sharpened by adrenaline, to gaze at endless fields of stratus, or the anvil-shaped head of a cumulonimbus, turned lavender by the sinking light, perhaps a mile across? I recall a peculiar scopophilia, a craving to see, perhaps because of the odd angle and behavior of light, or maybe because one simply did not know what the backside of heaven might look like. A similar feeling takes hold when I look at the paintings of Megan Rooney. The novelty and density of her paintings feels as strange as clouds seen from above. For one thing, it is difficult to know how far or how close to stand to them. If you approach the canvas directly, some elements paradoxically recede. Sneak up on it obliquely, and the pigment appears to change color, in a manner quite improbable for oil paint. (...)

Given her use of abrasives in order to remove pigment, Rooney's process is as much one of excavation as one of paint application (...) cutting into and removing material became natural parts of her image-making process. The coercive education that she gives each painting - adding to it, taking away from it, coddling it, bullying it, propping it up, sanding it back, laying it flat, applying turpentine to its surface - produces an image that has a complexity more like that of a realistic novel than that of a lyric poem. Each canvas has mopped up so much of the painter's time, so much of her attention, that it acquires a kind of personhood. By her own account, Rooney loses herself in the act of painting. The painting, for its part, finds itself in the process of being worked upon. From the painting's perspective, Rooney is like the weather: a series of climatic forces that build up the surface and then erode it. Time is the universal measure of care, and its presence is palpable here. The time that she spends on the images transmutes into the time that we spend looking at them. The feeling of immersion that results is a revelation, as profound and self-evident as a child's discovery that clouds have no edges.

Adam Jasper

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