51 Chiltern Street
Intimate Portraits of Dan Graham by Mieko Meguro
For Mieko Meguro’s most recent solo show at A&D Gallery, she once again connects her art to the subject of love. This time through a range of drawings and paintings of her husband, the artist-writer, Dan Graham, whom she has been photographing and sketching since 2009.
For those who know Dan well, or know of him through his video work and his live talks, it will be apparent that, Mieko has framed him not as the usual muse type figure obsessively depicted as an inspiration in her work, nor is her reasoning bound up with excessive adulation but as someone she recognises as her, Dan Graham. Faintly caricatured at times, as if to reinforce the need to always try to approach life with a sense of humour. With titles such as ‘Dan eats’, ‘Dan on the phone’, ‘Dan naps’ - whether he’s curled up on the bed or nodding off in an aircraft seat with one of those padded cushions around his neck, these are intimate, elegiac illustrations, some playful, done for fun, others, rather more poignant.
In terms of his personal habits, and mannerisms being out there for people to view he certainly doesn’t appear to be afraid of being seen to look less together. Also in producing a unique insight into an otherwise quite private individual, Meguro is revealing a much more nuanced, alternative version of how one’s relationship to someone we are intimate with and who may be perceived as ‘famous’ is often an illusion, bound up with the mundane, everyday habits and quirks that make all of us unique.
In a previous zine of her work devoted to Dan, she made the connection between some of his expressions or poses to those made by Japanese actors of the Kabuki style known as ‘Mie’ where the character stands motionless mid-performance to express a specific emotion or mood. Moreover, she has discussed her process as one of capturing a subject with which she has a genuine engagement, recalling an art school teacher who told her she must love what she draws.
When we use the expression, ‘home is where the heart is’ it tends to assume it is a place where we feel safest, or a least a sense of being protected and a wish to return, no matter how far we find ourselves away from it. As Graham once remarked in an interview, ‘(…) By closing the door, you are creating a shelter for yourself. And you are implicated in all the relationships’. His statement brought to mind poet Gaston Bachelard’s notion of the house as sheltering day dreaming - which itself, the writer suggests is, ‘the recollection of moments of confined, simple, shut in space, are experiences of heart-warming space’. The real space in which he is depicted, a bedroom or kitchen area, do not figure explicitly in Meguro’s works, rather it is the glimpse of part of a bed or a table top which we see.
In knowing that the person one shares the house - which according to Bachelard’s notion of architectural phenomenally, remains “… the topography of our intimate being both the repository of memory and the lodging of the soul.” – it feels as if Meiko Meguro’s work connecting herself to Dan, and his to her world, is as rich in emotions and in memories as those she herself embraces in their relationship.