Sandra Meigs at Susan Hobbs Gallery / Toronto

Sandra Meigs
This Little Lost Operas

March 12 – April 18, 2020

Susan Hobbs Gallery
137 Tecumseth Street

The Little Lost Operas explore how sentiment can implode through emotional pathways, into the subconscious mind. In the vein of Meigs’ earlier explorations on the theme of the Tragicomedy (Scenes for My Affection, Scenes on a Sea of Joy and Sorrow, JOYJOYSORROW) the works portray
invented operatic scenes each with a puppet in the midst of their Aria, and paper dolls as the supporting actors. Activated by detailed handiwork, fabric frames that move with air circulation, roughly recognizable stage settings, theatrical and musical references, the viewer is drawn in through intimate visual engagement. Each puppet is hand made by whittling, sewing, or clay sculpting. The use of dramatic gestural devices brings a sudden recognition that something palpable is happening within the painting; perhaps it is love, despair, arousal, or impending death.

Each is silent yet vocal and orchestrated, plotted yet absurd, rich in detail yet lacking all the information.

Written texts accompanying each painting contain excerpts from Playbill notes, opera synopses and music album reviews clumped together in Meigs’ enigmatic style.

In the intimate paintings upstairs, “on the emotions”, Meigs also explores emotion in painting through an imagined landscape, from a location existing somewhere in the artist’s mind. Produced over a 6 month period, the paintings fluctuated from day to day, week to week, sometimes being obliterated entirely, then reconfigured, until finally the painting’s own inner emotional state emerged.

The title is taken from a book of the same title by Richard Wollheim. His ideas linked art, philosophy and psychoanalysis. He defined emotions not as just fleeting inner states, but as attitudes that orient us in the world. He describes this orientation as being deeply imaginative.

He describes the phenomenon of ‘seeing-in’, such as finding castles in clouds, or figures in wallpaper stains, as a way to identify with a painting. Through the act of ‘seeing-into’ a composition, the viewer engages and projects their own emotions into the work. The painting reciprocates this emotional exchange, through its content and form, by projecting its own mood back onto the viewer.

Thus the profound value of art lies in the looking rather than in that which is being expressed.