September 08, 2021Art & Design | In Conversation With Constance Maconaghie
By Anna Cipollone
Chestnut Park Real Estate
Exploring the natural beauty of Grey County and the Bruce Peninsula has made a lifelong impression on artist Constance Maconaghie, giving her a sense of present moment awareness, echoed in her work.
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“Still Life #3”, 8” x 10”.
Based on photographs, Constance Maconaghie paints primarily in gradients of black and white. A fascination with time and faded memory is evident in her watercolours, where the often-blurry blots call to mind the time between now and then, the present and the past, and how nostalgia and re-remembering alters our perception of any given moment.
“Fly Fishing”, watercolour on paper, 12” x 16”
What subject matter and themes are you currently exploring in your work?
I paint photographs I’ve taken of moments I think carry some interesting meaning and composition. They’re usually deeply personal scenes, though recreating the image in paint sets up a new space that may raise questions or allow the viewer to explore their own imagination.
I’ve always been excited by the idea that painting allows us to explore an everyday scene or moment in new ways. My hope is to create a dimensional travel space for my viewer–a vehicle for a wild ride, a moving trip in time, essentially.
What materials do you gravitate towards?
I paint primarily in black and white watercolour on paper; it’s a more ephemeral, impermanent medium of painting.
“Livingroom, Red Bay #2”, watercolour on paper, 8” x 10”
How would you describe the aesthetic of your work?
I’m not one to believe that beauty is a bad word. I’m trying to use skill and poetry to move people into a new space. What I hope the viewer experiences is recognition of surroundings, of what is familiar–while at the same time questioning what they see, allowing for a departure from what is photographic into the realm of the mysterious.
How has your work evolved over the past few years?
I have always gravitated towards capturing the essence of what is familiar to me. In university, I was exploring snapshot portraiture in oil paint. Quick, accurate work about the moment, broad strokes and skill, seeing how much of that person I could capture beyond the photograph.
I’ve moved into more atmospheric work, still about capturing the essence of memory but departing from the image a little more now into moments of abstraction. The move from colour to black and white has to do with the aesthetic of memory but also a way to abstract information a little further.
Describe the philosophy behind your art.
My work is quite subjective and personal, but also loosely symbolic in that it does investigate the certainty of mystery and magic that lies behind everyday appearances.
“Livingroom, Red Bay House”, 8” x 8”, watercolour on paper
Where do you find inspiration?
Definitely in the perceived unknown. Mystery, magic, dimensions, time, the universe, deep connection. There is more beyond the limits of our experience.
How do you cope with creative blocks?
For me, a block comes with the inability to capture what I imagined: a “failed” piece, which is easy to do in watercolour. Normally I wait for inspiration to hit me again naturally, but it does work to paint through a block like that until a discovery gets the awe and inspiration rolling again.
“Still Life #2”, 5” x 7”.
Do you have preferences around how your work is received?
Art school taught me the importance of context and narrative. I keep my titles simple and frame my own work, using repurposed antique framing which I paint black playing on that sense of memory and nostalgia that accompanies my work.
I purposely leave the rough edges of my paintings visible as an indicator of my imperfect human hand and process. I don’t often think through the whys of these decisions–but they’re intentional.
Why is art important to you?
It moves me up and away from insignificant narratives. The best forms of it can transform a person completely, to higher planes and into a very different, profound space. Music, art and poetry–I’ve found I need these experiences like I need food or water.
For more information on Constance Maconaghie, visit: constancemaconaghie.com
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