Bob Bicknell-Knight on Robin Megannity
I’ve never met, or even spoken to, Robin Megannity. I’ve never actually seen his work in the physical world, only ever admiring his intricately crafted paintings through the lens of Instagram, or whilst looking at the documentation for this exhibition. The closest I’ve come to one of his works, was when I helped transport a small painting of his, from a warehouse in South London to a framers after it had been acquired by the Government Art Collection.
As a freelance art technician I see and interact with a lot of art on a weekly basis, with names and work details slowly blending together, pushed to the back of my mind in a helpless bid to forget yet another tedious work week. When I saw Megannity’s name on the soft wrapped package I hesitated, imagining what was behind the bubble wrap and the protective polythene sheeting. Knowing Megannity’s work, I was picturing a 3D modelled Egyptian bust, or perhaps a glossy balloon hand, full of helium and waiting to pop.
Instead, however, I later found out that the acquired work was being satisfied (2019), a hyperrealist painting of a glass ornament, simultaneously resembling both a vase and a candelabra, alongside mirroring the attributes of certain smoking paraphernalia. Perhaps this confusion as to where the object would reside within the home is part of the work and Megannity’s practice, with many of his paintings being both an invitation and a provocation, asking the viewer to create their own narrative through identifying references and visual cues.
Many of Megannity’s paintings begin as 3D models, created using digital software to produce objects and artefacts that are both familiar and alien, with his hyperreal style becoming eerily artificial at times, especially when viewed through the sheen of a computer screen. The works resemble historical still lifes, brought forwards by their presentation within the context of the contemporary landscape.
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, this exhibition is an online presentation of paintings that were physically photographed within an empty gallery space, where Megannity is exhibiting several recent works made in 2019 and 2020. The exhibition’s title ferme la fenêtre, translates into English as close the window, a reference to closing a digital window within a computer screen, and by association the online nature of the exhibition, with the audience looking into the gallery space through their electronic devices. Alongside this, the majority of paintings in the exhibition are multi-layered, with the main focus of the work being pulled to the centre, framed and surrounded by abstracted painterly textures, continually reminding the viewer that these are elaborately hand painted representations of an unknown reality.
The centrepiece of each painting contains a familiar item, from the head of a spray can to a miniature toy house, returning to Megannity’s interest in objects that many encounter on a daily basis, but may not necessarily have taken the time to contemplate. The titles attached to each work, People are private (II) (2020), Love mistake (II) (2020) and eating alone (2019) suggest an elaborate storyline behind each piece, with Megannity once again requiring the viewer to fabricate their own intricate back-story.
ferme la fenêtre is an exhibition that invites the audience into an artificial environment, where refined objects contain complex stories, viewed within the context of the internet and via a window that will eventually close.
Bob Bicknell-Knight (b. Suffolk, UK) is a London-based artist, writer and curator. He is the founder and director of isthisit?, a platform for contemporary art, exhibiting over 800 artists since its creation in May 2016. Online, it operates as a gallery producing monthly exhibitions showcasing emerging to mid-career artists, hosting a roster of guest curators experimenting with the medium of the internet to interrogate a variety of concepts. The website also hosts monthly residencies, where artists are given a web page to create new work that exists on the internet as a piece of net art. Offline, it has held exhibitions nationally and internationally and is the publisher of isthisit?, a book series released on a triannual basis.