Wednesday 18 July 2018

What Lies Beneath: I Saw the World a Second Time by Margaret Egan

I Saw the World a Second Time by Margaret Egan, Acrylic on linen, Courtesy Solomon Fine Art

What Lies Beneath: I Saw the World a Second Time by Margaret Egan
What Lies Beneath: I Saw the World a Second Time by Margaret Egan

Niall MacMonagle

Last year, artist Margaret Egan walked into an art gallery and, distracted and fascinated not by the art works in Tate Modern but by what was happening outside the window, produced this new painting.

Glimpses of "people in rooms in huge blocks of apartments - nobody seems to close blinds or curtains - snippets of life going on" sparked Egan's imagination.

"For a moment, you are in someone's life and the space around almost disappears."

These slices of life, these mini-dramas, contain tension and "show the 'feeling' of how people are in different situations".

In I Saw the World a Second Time, a very large work that took over six weeks, we see a couple but it's difficult to make out how coupled up they are.

What's going on? Nothing as ordinary as watching TV, checking emails, ironing, picking your nose - that's for sure.

The man, seated, looks over the viewer's right shoulder. Groomed, booted, stylishly dressed, in well-cut jacket and trousers and a white T-shirt that doesn't look chainstore, he could step on to a catwalk any moment. In the background, a slim figure in shimmering white, her back to us. Is she waiting? Is she walking away? The corridor effect adds depth and the side panels that frame the centrepiece are picked up again in an abstract painting behind his head: two paintings in one.

Those muted cloudy-green, beautiful side panels seem to reflect the sky.

That the left one is twice the width of the one on the right really works compositionally: "You know when you look through a window or door in passing, at night, and you see an interior lit up, then everything else fades into sort of nothing, so the spaces on each side of the figures are the 'sort of nothing' in your head."

The reddish chair, a circular, brilliantly-lit, cloth-covered table, those different greens especially, say Egan, "emphasise the feeling that was going on with the couple".

It's a clutter-free mysterious scene, "and possibly unhappy but not entirely so".

Was it easy to paint? "I have a very good visual memory, so light, shadow and colour linger with me."

And why this title? "Because of the situation I witnessed. Life is full of surprises and lessons."

And if you don't want to be surprised, pull those curtains.

A Slice of Life, new work by Margaret Egan, is at Solomon Fine Art until October 21.

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