Exhibition review Megan Keating: Schema Dunce Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania
Hovering somewhere between reality and illusion, shadows appear to transubstantiate into tangible forms in Megan Keating's piece titled Distant Scape. Dozens of small ovoid shapes painted in a wide band on a pane of clear glass seem to linger in the space behind it, indistinguishable from their blue green shadows. The drift of shapes is abruptly ruptured by a black square painted directly onto the wall. A nihilistic void in which shadows dissolve into nothingness. Like Plato's shadows these elusive shapes hint that everything we see is an illusion - merely an imperfect copy of an ideal, intangible and eternal reality.
Threading through all of Keating's work is the desire to understand the nature of beauty. Like Mondrian, Malevich and Kandinsky, Keating uses formal abstraction and the classical principles of harmony, unity and proportion to explore esoteric ideas. Although contemplating the unattainable ideals of absolute perfection and beauty, Keating's work does not deny the physicality of the world but has a tangible sensuality. In Six Moments of Serenity, the series of small paintings on square panes of glass quietly demands intimacy.
The discreetly textured oil painted surfaces, the smoothness of the glass, and the subdued olive greens, aubergine and pinks gently delight and seduce the senses. Across these surfaces buoyant egg-shapes dreamily float off the edges and across the gaps between the horizontal line of the images.
Whereas Mondrian used geometric lines and blocks of colour to construct a blueprint for a utopic world, Keating's recurring motif is the ovoid shape which refers to a diverse range of systems of philosophical and religious thought. It is at once "the grid mandala, the imperfect circle, eggs, the misshapen sphere of earth, the irregular cycles of the planets." On the floor of the small gallery space dozens of white plaster egg-shaped objects - each the size of an emu egg - are grouped together. Each egg is pierced with a thin clear shaft of glass suggestive of conception and mythical beginnings. Keating's reference to a wide diversity of systems of thought reveals her search for an underlying universal truth.
The brittle fragility intrinsic to eggshell and glass inevitably hints at mortality and death. As one wanders through the space the viewer is aware of the precarious balance of some of these objects and the ephemeral and transient nature of much of the imagery which is made from shadows or painted directly onto the gallery wall. In Hanging Mandala this fragility is made explicit. Hundreds of small pieces of clear glass hang in a cluster from threads, on each is painted a fragment of an ovoid shape, a broken curved line.
While dabbling in regions where religion, philosophy and art overlap, far from being didactic, Keating has left the questions unanswered and constructed a minimalist contemplative space in which the viewer can let their thoughts ramble, surrounded by a fragile beauty.