Meg Gallagher is a New Zealand artist that bridges fashion and design, we chat with her about life and work, and her latest show which explores the concept of home – on exhibition now at Totem Road.
Aleesha Callahan: Tell us about yourself, your background and what led you to where you are now
Meg Gallagher: Born and raised in New Zealand on a small farm on the Otago Peninsula, I was strongly encouraged to be creative by my parents and was always drawing, painting and sewing. I chose to pursue a career in fashion design because I loved the connection it had to people and culture, and I ended up spending some years as a denim designer, travelling frequently to Japan, America, Hong Kong and Turkey sourcing vintage denim.
During my years at Ksubi, I learnt how to push the artistic boundaries and it reminded me how much I missed the expressive process of painting. I started painting on denim and buyers would approach me from around the world – I have social media to thank for that. My focus quickly shifted to painting fulltime, so I made the decision to base myself in New Zealand again as it’s where I feel the most inspired.
Tell us about your work – what is the driving philosophy behind what you do?
It could be summarised at this point as textural landscapes though I have previously explored figurative female forms. My work is unique in the sense that I use denim as my base instead of a traditional canvas. I can manipulate the denim to create flowing textures that a paintbrush could never do. I spend a lot of time layering colour to create a sense of depth and movement. In my mind, there is always a driving force to create the energy I get from landscapes and not simply what I see in front of me.
My most recent exhibition for Totem Road, No Place Like Home, explores the sentiment of home, encouraging viewers to immerse themselves and look inwards to what home means to them personally. It was inspired by landscapes but the end result is a suggested sentiment, for viewers to find grounding and clarity in nature, to come home to nature.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I’m definitely guilty of staying too long at the studio sometimes so when I leave, I make a point of never bringing my laptop home with me. I need home to be my time to tune out – I’ll cook, garden, potter around the house or just hang with my son watching surf videos. Even though my brain is always humming away with thoughts and ideas for my work, it’s really important for me to try and zone out because that’s when the best ideas are sparked anyway.
How does design play a role in your life?
I’ll be obsessed with design until I die but I’m less about keeping up with the fast trends and more about seeking inspiration where I have an emotional pull from. I still lean into my background of design when coming up with inspiration for my art – I’ll take visual notes from architecture, interiors and fashion and infuse it into my work, so it feels contemporary to me.
What does home mean to you?
Home to me is a feeling, not a place. It’s wherever I can let go of my ego and feel most like me. That might be anything from sitting around the couch with my siblings telling cringe stories or making a cup of tea for my mum when she pops over.
How does your home reflect your passions, interests and creativity?
I love collecting vintage treasures so I’m always rummaging around second-hand stores. I love the thrill of the hunt to find the perfect lamp or rug. My home is filled with pieces that all have a story which I like. I like mixing colours and textures, so my house feels warm and not too contrived.
“I’ll be obsessed with design until I die but I’m less about keeping up with the fast trends and more about seeking inspiration where I have an emotional pull from.”
What’s your favourite room/object/thing in your house?
I really wanted to create a lounge area that everyone would want to come over and hang out in. When I was in Turkey, I was obsessed with their elaborate floor sofas. So, I had a friend over there help me to get a custom one made and sent over to New Zealand. It gives me so much joy when I see everyone sprawled over it when we have movie nights because my vision came to life.
Why do you believe culture, art and design are important?
Because they are good for the soul. In a world where it’s easy to be overwhelmed by darkness, we need creativity to bring us some light.
Photography by Emily Cannan
No Place Like Home is currently showing at Totem Road, Paddington, Sydney.