Meredith Marsone's art reveals a vulnerability and strength in every piece, a trait Marsone herself shares with her social media posts revealing the occasional doubts all artists have despite her success both here and in America and over 30 thousand followers on Instagram. We spoke to Meredith briefly about the differences between the American and New Zealand art market, how her art has evolved and the role of art in society...
Tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get started as an artist and what kind of background did you come from?
I was one of those drawing-obsessed kids, always lying on the lounge floor with my felt pens, drawing and re-drawing my school book title pages, creating cartoon likenesses for my friends, endless amounts of characters and animals. It was my happy place!
It was just a given I would go to art school, and I was very fortunate to have parents who supported that, so I left school after the sixth form to pursue my degree, majoring in painting. I then spent my 20’s largely raising my first two daughters. It wasn't until they were both at school that I began my painting career in earnest. My first solo was back in 2006 and it's all just flowed in one way or another from there.
When creating a new work of art do you have a special space? Certain routines you follow?
The birth of a new series can be really painful and drawn out. It's where all the doubts and stops creep in and if I'm not careful I can procrastinate in this anxiety space far too long. It's important in these early stages to just get moving. Make a painting, ANY painting, just create and it will start to flow as you make small decision after small decision. Inspiration doesn't come like a lightning bolt at 2 am, it comes as a series of ideas and thoughts that are born from action. As they say, the more you do, the luckier you get!
Your portrait work is layered with strength and vulnerability and inclusive of different genders and sexuality. What role do you feel art has in the promotion of diversity and tolerance?
I'm not sure I put any kind of pressure on art to be an activist in that way. I do like to elicit or provoke a little but in a pretty non-confrontational kind of way. It's a portrayal of how I see the world and the way you see it is just as valid. I have no need to challenge or change that in you, I'm simply showing you the world through my eyes.
Having shown successfully in both New Zealand and America have you noticed any differences between how your work is received in the two countries?
It feels like my work is well received in both countries but the US is slightly more open to owning portrait work that is of someone ‘they don't know’. This has always baffled me a little about the NZ market. I think it's slowly changing and art buyers are enjoying owning pieces that simply resonate with them without the need for it to be a familiar face.
The style you are most known for was initially created out of a moment of frustration, what was the catalyst for your recent move into landscapes?
I think I just finally succumbed to the natural beauty around me living in Marlborough. I drive every day through the grapevines, looking at the expansive sky and hills and I'm always thinking - how would I paint that? What colour is the hill in the distance? The hues are subtle and wonderful and a challenge to portray. That, and I have a new line of enquiry in my work that involves people as custodians of the land. Watch this space!
You have a large social media following which I assume is both a blessing and a curse, how do you balance staying true to yourself and meeting people’s expectations?
I do need to constantly remind myself that it's a nice perk but it can in no way inform what I paint. In the same way, you can't have a ‘buyer’ in mind when you paint, I can't think about my audience either. They're there, and they can be wonderfully supportive and encouraging, (and sometimes deafening silence!) but it's never a way to be guided. You have to be led by your own interests and drivers; the things that make you excited to paint. Otherwise, it'll all come to a screeching halt and you won't feel like you’re being authentic. Creating what's genuinely yours to create is your gift and your responsibility as an artist.