contemporary art / history of art

Mad Meg

Born in 1976 in Villeurbanne, France, Mad Meg has an education in fine bookbinding and studied plastic arts. Subsequently, she frequented the Académie des Beaux-Arts of Paris for a short study. Additionally, she worked in the ateliers of the city of Paris, learning nude drawing of living models. In 2001, the artist started to draw in small notebooks (approximately 11 cm x 15 cm) with a ballpoint pen and made around 450 pages until now. Over time, she set about greater formats and replaced the pen by a nib pen. This technique is more archaic than the ballpoint pen and enables a precise and incisive execution. Especially the work on large-sized paper generates a contrast between the meticulous drawing and the monumental format. Thus, the contemplator might be attracted by the dimensions, but could plunge into the details and immerse completely in the image.

Her artist name, is a reference to the painting “Dulle Griet” by Pieter Breugel the Elder from 1563, which is also known as “Mad Meg”. This allusion is on one hand based on Mad Meg’s feminist position, but also in her predilection to this Dutch artist. Other influencing artists are Gustave DoréJacques Callot and not surprisingly Hieronymus Bosch. Moreover, she admires various artists using animals as allegory for human beings and she is stimulated by literature. Hence, she also includes these texts in her works. Her sources of inspiration are evident in her oeuvre. She frequently reinterprets masterpieces, for example “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (Hieronymus Bosch), “The Arnolfini Wedding” (Jan van Eyck) and self-explanatory the “Dulle Griet”. In her versions, she includes autobiographic elements alike social criticism on subjects important to her, like feminism, de-colonialism, environmentalism.

This is even truer for her series of patriarchs. Here Mad Meg points to the toxic forms of masculinity. Already the name of the series refers to this. Apart from the ecclesiastic sense, the meaning of “patriarch” coming from Greek is the “chief or father of a family”, often an extended family. His government was and sometimes still is autocratic and tolerates no contradiction. Thus, his influence on the concerned society is enormous.

Mad Meg transfers these qualities to prototypes of chosen groups of the society and calls them patriarchs. Herewith she points to the sometimes hidden operating string pullers in politics, in the Church, in economy and in the informal sector. There is a pater familias, an imperialist, a conservative, a pope, an analyst, a conjurer and the “Patriarch n° 1418 – The broken Face”, which is our artwork of the month in April 2022. All these architypes of masculine characters have a human body with their accessories to recognize them, but the head of an insect. For the artist, they are not disguised men, but insects trying to pose as a human being. Referring to the notion of “bad faith” (French: mauvaise foi) of the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, these patriarchs are not acting authentically. They are playing a role and adept false values. In doing so, they deny themselves and renounce to the freedom, which is inherent to human beings. Consequently, they are deceiving themselves and the society. Since the individuals behind these prototypes mostly have a big influence, they could harm the society. Mad Meg wants to make aware of this. At the same time, she demonstrates that most powerful people are still masculine.

From 2004 on, the artist participated at numerous group shows and personal exhibitions, first in France, later also in Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Moreover, she published several artist books and limited printed editions of her drawings. In 2020, entered her “Feast of Fools” (2008 – 2010) in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, France. With 894 cm x 152 cm, it is the – until now – hugest oeuvre. At the same time began her solo exhibition “Margot l’enragée” in the same institution, which lasted until summer 2021. “Feast of Fools” combine two of her described directions in art. On one hand, it gathers thirteen of her patriarchs; on the other hand, it is her interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. The Galleria Gasparelli exposed Mad Meg together with the sculptor Séverine Gambier at their location in Fano, Italy in 2021. “Dell’ Ornamento” (From Ornament) resulted from a cooperation between the two French artists. “Patriarch n° 1418 – The broken Face” illustrates this collaboration. For a cooperation between the Galleria Gasparelli and the Galleria D406, the original exhibition was enlarged. The result was displayed at the Art Verona in October and at The Others Art Fair in Turin one month later. From November 2021 to March 2022, works of both artists were on view at the “Marginalia” in Pavia, Italy. In May 2022, their works will be with the Galleria D406 on the BOOMing Contemporary Art Fair in Bologna. The artist is represented by the Galleria Gasparelli.

Mad Meg lives and works in Paris.


Artwork of the Month / April 2022