Megan Rooney BONES ROOTS FRUITS Megan Rooney BONES ROOTS FRUITS

Megan Rooney BONES ROOTS FRUITS

Until 4 October 2021
London Ely House
/

Megan Rooney’s first solo exhibition at the gallery presents entirely new paintings – ten large-scale and one monumental – alongside a selection of works on paper from Old Baggy Root, an ongoing series of abstracted portraits. Through layers of ethereal forms, she creates abstracted narratives without a discernible beginning or end. Her impassioned colour compositions are wedded to the idea of memory and the experiential perception of colour, which can forge or summon an environment.

The exhibition’s title BONES ROOTS FRUITS is taken from the artist’s recent experiences, with subjects drawn directly from her own life and surroundings that are deeply invested in the present moment. 

Play
Pause

Megan Rooney’s fascinating ability to tell stories and create a narrative is felt through the various media of her multidisciplinary approach. Always in flux, recurring characters speak to a narrative that is never fixed, the artist addresses urgent subjects of our time and presents each iteration of her work as part of her Gesamtkunstwerk.

— Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries

Stand Up Sky is the artist’s largest work on canvas to date and here serves as a kind of primary atmosphere from which all the other paintings have flown, been thrown and excreted, maybe even dreamed onto the surrounding walls. This sky – standing up? lying down? – is at once placid and raucous, pale pinks and blues smeared with bright yellow, ochre, red, the canvas scraped and sanded in places to produce rough, ragged textures that disturb the continuity of the surface. A series of sharp lines, scarlet and tawny, spear and arc across the canvas like stamen or branches, daubs of colour roiling about them like organic matter. The eye stutters against a vertical column of short horizontal lines in blue, green, black, as if they are sutures running up the canvas, stitching to the outer limits of the stand up sky, reminding us how precariously any image is balanced and contained.

— writer Emily LaBarge, The locust tree in bloom, 2021

I imagine myself in flight when I am painting, hovering above the surface and searching for places to land, touching down and lifting off. I do this again and again until the surface starts to collect information… The painting becomes like a capsule, holding the weight of time. 

— Megan Rooney

The palimpsest devotion of Blue departure, whose depths seem too distant for the eye to wholly grasp: how deep can...

The palimpsest devotion of Blue departure, whose depths seem too distant for the eye to wholly grasp: how deep can a painting go? Does it have a past, a memory, a longing, like mine? So many greens, blues, blacks, dove greys, saturated somewhere far off with canary yellow. And throbbing at the centre, crimson again, fiery orange, the slightest indication of single brushstrokes, maybe fingers, moving and scratching fervently across the canvas. The time it took, the devotion, to paint that baby rose pink, that coral, that cornflower blue – only to sand it down, cover it over, render it just about invisible to the naked eye.

— Emily LaBarge, The locust tree in bloom, 2021

 

Blue departure, 2021
Acrylic and oil stick on canvas
199.6 x 152.3 x 3.5 cm (78.58 x 59.96 x 1.38 in)

Navigating between abstraction and figuration, Rooney’s fugitive forms seem to emerge and recede from view, their possible interpretations shifting according...

Navigating between abstraction and figuration, Rooney’s fugitive forms seem to emerge and recede from view, their possible interpretations shifting according to each viewer’s physical, personal and cultural vantage points.

The artist builds her compositions by working in concentrated bursts, moving across the surface over a prolonged period during which she sands back images, adding and removing marks to repeatedly return the painting to its beginning, before building it up again until the final image presents itself. 

 

Mother's Return, 2021
Acrylic and oil stick on canvas
199.6 x 152.3 x 3.5 cm (78.58 x 59.96 x 1.38 in)

 

Rooney’s canvases measure approximately 200 x 150 cm – the wingspan of the average woman – grounding her abstraction in the bodily register of lived experience. ‘I weld paint in order to try and bring us back inside of our bodies,’ she explains. Her impassioned colour compositions are wedded to the idea of memory and the experiential perception of colour, which can forge or summon an environment.

 

You need not see anything at all, in particular, but you must see, in general – you must look, look...

You need not see anything at all, in particular, but you must see, in general – you must look, look again, keep looking. This is Rooney's real business: fighting for the space between representation and abstraction – a collision, a collision – and what might happen there.

— Emily LaBarge, The locust tree in bloom, 2021 

 

Hot with shade, 2021
Acrylic, oil and oil stick on canvas
199.6 x 152.3 x 3.5 cm (76.59 x 59.97 x 1.38 in)

Rooney’s ongoing Old Baggy Root series (2017– ) forms a kaleidoscope of quickly executed figures in which she commits paints, pastels and inks to paper and faces to memory. ‘The paper people are a combination of people who have made an impression on me that I have come across in my daily activities, media images and, of course, people in my private life filter into these drawings,’ says Rooney.

The faces, with their unsteady features and forms that wish to take flight or transform, remind us that we live...

The faces, with their unsteady features and forms that wish to take flight or transform, remind us that we live in abstractions – politics, society, order, law, health, care – and we do well to see ourselves embodied in all other things, no matter how fleeting the recognition.

 Emily LaBarge, The locust tree in bloom, 2021

Join Megan Rooney and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries on Tuesday 28 September from 6.30pm, when they will...

Join Megan Rooney and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries on Tuesday 28 September from 6.30pm, when they will be in conversation at the gallery discussing the artist’s practice and her current exhibition.

RSVP

Learn more about the artist

    Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
    Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
    Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
    Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
    Atmospheric image Atmospheric image