Meg Brown Payson is a Maine painter whose work tends to be seen more often in Massachusetts than in Maine. Currently, it’s in Chester, Connecticut, subject of a solo exhibition at Eo Art Lab entitled Hydrostatic Pressure (through September 26). The title, which in fluid mechanics is “the pressure at a point in a fluid at rest due to the weight of the fluid above it,” reflects the gallery’s mission “to explore the vast realm between art and science through highly original works of profound reach.”
Payson’s fluid abstractions came to the Connecticut gallery’s attention when Meg Brown Payson was featured along with 14 other painters, mostly from the Boston area, in a 2007 exhibition at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, entitled Big Bang! Abstract Painting for the 21st Century. What the painters, among them Sarah Slavik, Sarah Walker, and Sean Foley, have in common is an approach to painting that might best be described as “cosmological,” complex systems of imagery resonant with everything from computer circuitry and subatomic particles to entire galaxies.
In Meg Brown Payson’s case, her imagery suggests fluid dynamics on both a micro and a macro level, everything from the primordial ooze and cellular structures from which all life evolved to vast aquatic landscapes. She seems to be looking at the universe simultaneously through a microscope and a telescope.
“The initial impulse for my work,” writes Payson, “lies in memories of wild places, and particularly in the embodied quality of those memories as color and rhythm, pattern and scale. But my concerns extend beyond landscape to interest in how we construct a meaningful relationship to the unfamiliar, and in how that intellectual process seems to be an iteration of the self-organization that takes place regularly throughout the natural world.”
Paintings such as “Lichen/Lake,” “Sweet Spring/Float,” and “Dapple Day/Blues” each suggest a different kind of natural association, but all of Payson?s acrylic on panel paintings share the illusion of aqueous depth, an effect created by drips and pools of transparent paint that the artist manipulates until they resolve themselves to her satisfaction.
“It is a process that goes from the chaotic to the orderly,” she writes, “but to a tenuous, provisional order that stops short of any system and would need resorting if anything more were added.”
Such a process could easily result in wildly dissonant paintings, but there is a natural elegance to Meg Brown Payson’s art, a sense that, in its infinite complexity, apparent randomness, and mystery, the world is a very beautiful place.
[Eo Art Lab, 69 Main St., Chester CT, 860.526.4833.]