Megan Rooney

b. 1985, Canada

An enigmatic storyteller, Megan Rooney works across a variety of media – including painting, sculpture, installation, performance and language – to develop interwoven narratives. The body is a recurring element in her work, as both the subjective starting point and final site for the sedimentation of experiences explored through her practice. The subjects of her works are drawn directly from her own life and surroundings, while her references are deeply invested in the present moment. She addresses the myriad effects of politics and society that manifest in the home and in the female body. Recurring characters and motifs form part of a dreamlike narrative that is never fixed, but obliquely references some of the most urgent issues of our time.

Painting on uniform canvases measuring 200 x 150 cm – the wingspan of the average woman – Rooney presents layers of ethereal forms, often sanded back and painted over multiple times to create abstracted narratives without a discernible beginning or end. 'Each painting is a capsule of time and space,' writes critic Emily LaBarge, 'a palimpsest of effort and care, a portal into an intimate conversation between artist and canvas in which the journey of the work remains pulsing just beneath its surface.' She punctuates these layers with a contrasting dash of colour or energetic line, drawing the viewer in only to disrupt their gaze with unexpected elements. These often suggest corporeal forms that emerge and recede from view in an otherworldly space, as if captured in the process of becoming.

The artist's distinctive palette, strong sense of materiality and evocative use of colour are central to her practice, uniting her work across media. As curator Anna Lena Seiser describes, 'colour becomes a wildfire, a living element that morphs and overlaps with other bodies, swallows them up, takes hold of the space and weaves everything together.' Rooney's large-scale murals, ephemeral creations that respond to the surrounding architectural space, are often placed in dialogue with sculptural works to create an enveloping environment. These sculptures, created from household materials, found objects and fabric scraps, are tangibly linked to her paintings through the textured palette and deft brushstrokes. The same is true of her performance works, in which painterly elements seem to have taken on a life of their own, with dancers moving to the score of her prose poetry.

Based in London, Rooney grew up between South Africa, Brazil and Canada, completing her BA at the University of Toronto followed by an MA in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths College, London in 2011. Her work has recently been shown in solo museum exhibitions, including at the Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2020–21); Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto (2020); and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2019). Her performance EVERYWHERE BEEN THERE, created in collaboration with choreographer Temitope Ajose-Cutting and musician Paolo Thorsen-Nagel, premiered at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 2019. The year prior, she performed SUN DOWN MOON UP as part of the Serpentine Galleries' Park Nights programme in London. Rooney's work has also been presented in numerous group exhibitions, namely the Lyon Biennale (2019); Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2019 and 2017); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2018); Venice Biennale (2017); David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2017 and 2014); and Fondation d'entreprise Galeries Lafayette, Paris (2014), among others.

[Biography supplied by Thaddaeus Ropac]

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