By Evan Barber
Fayetteville-born Megan Chapman and Stewart Bremner of Edinburgh, Scotland, are two abstract painters who are collaborating in a fascinatingly unusual manner.
The two artists first came together in May 2011, and have since worked on several abstract works of art — often painting on the canvas together at the same time — to create “a style in which they could see each other’s work, and yet also a fusion of the two.”
Their most recent showing together, “A Place Called Home,” ran from July 3-27 at the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale. The exhibition explored themes of distance, travel, acclimation and cultural fusion — all of the concepts that have carved out a substantial space in their lives since the start of their transatlantic relationship.
“Home is an everyday part of our lives,” continues the set prelude on their collaboration’s blogspot. “It is both a place and a state of mind. Some might think of home as family, friends, familiarity, comfort and ease. Others might think of opportunities, connections and a place to work. Still others may think of it simply as a place to live. Yet what happens to the definition of home when one is in a relationship that spans an ocean?”
The pieces in this series bear a strong sense of motion and shifting, and of emotional headspaces alternately soothed and in anguish. Balancing “the cool colors of Scotland” are the “warmer colors of Arkansas.” But looking beyond the palette, upon consideration of each painting’s dual-artistry, the works come to summon and embody the deeper sense of relational chemistry — the chemistry of the painters — which births the works themselves.
“What’s great about these works is there really aren’t any parts of them that I can look at and say, ‘Oh, that’s my mark there, I did that,’” Bremner said. “We’ve created something totally new, and it belongs to both of us.”
“Every artist hates to see a blank canvas, just like every writer hates to see a blank page,” Chapman said. “For each piece, we started first by creating a chaos that we would then have to deal with and solve. One of us would start, and then after a while the other would take a turn, and then eventually we would start painting on the canvas simultaneously.”
The individual titles of the pieces, carefully and painstakingly chosen (sometimes from more than
20 specially-conceived candidates) serve to guide and illuminate the interpretation of each piece. With names like “My land is a ghost,” “Departure” and “We are nomads,” the raw sense of yearning and strain, of geographical transience and plaguing physical separation occasionally allayed becomes palpable.
“If you’ve done your work right, the artwork and the name will kind of boost each other up,” said Bremner. “We try to occupy a middle ground by intentionally avoiding anything too concrete in our titles, by using ideas and imagery that hint at a meaning without being particular to singular interpretation. Our intention is to create titles that spark the imagination of the viewer and therefore give them a gateway into our work, rather than telling them exactly what to think.”
Check out their work, more about their collaboration and upcoming exhibitions at their blog: chapmanbremner.blogspot.com.