There is art that makes you feel things when you look at it; love, horror, compassion, and there is art that fills every inch of your being with the piece’s emotion. Art that truly connects with you. Jennifer Mehigan’s works are the latter. They are otherworldly. From glitter, holographic fabric, corroded car parts and painted canvases, they embody an aesthetic that seems to celebrate the girl gangs of the 90’s.
“There's definitely a 90s childhood vibe to the materials I am attracted to. One of my earliest memories is after having surgery, I got this Barbie where the dress was an opal lamé material and there was this heart shaped device that you used to make ice, and you would press it into the fabric and it would change from a pale rainbow opal to hot pink with the temperature. It was amazing. I think about it a lot,” she says.
Mehigan reveals however that this doesn’t necessarily mean her works are ultra feminine or gendered. So how would she try to describe her work then? “I would describe my aesthetic as something to do with softness, desire, dysphoria and machines. But soft grunge or neon-fresh-modern work too.” Mehigan has also coined her own term to describe her work; ‘cybersensuality’.
"I felt it (cybersensuality) described what I have been doing over the last year or so. I'm trying to describe my experiences of the Internet coming from a place of affection, prosthesis, bondage, eros... It's embedded in everything from the technology I use to make things like touch screens, to the role of liquid crystals in screens on which we experience virtual materiality, to the creation of liquid gestures and 3D shapes that kind of speak from a body to a body via a screen, be it online or otherwise”, she explains.
Cyber and real life realities therefore denote her work’s concepts; discussing, analysing and celebrating, both the separate and intertwined relationships we have with them, as well as illuminating Mehigan’s fascination with the Internet as a whole.
“Like most, I don't really see a separation between the two even though I absolutely have an online version and a real life version of myself, with a lot of overlap. It's interesting that a technology developed for warfare and dehumanisation has become this almost, if you feel very positively about the internet, spiritual or pseudo-utopian plane, through which we are all still surveilled and targeted in one way or another and still basically reinforces hegemonies. It's confusing."
Her works morph and combine real-life imagery and objects with doodles and Paintshop tool lines and effects. A process she explains links her subject matter of cyber and real life together. Thus software plays a large role in how she transforms, moulds and interrelates not only her subject matter, but also her various mediums. “They all explain each other in some way. The digital 'landscapes' and paintings made on a computer help decipher my paintings on canvas and plastic, and the videos explain them all. The videos are a way better "artist statement" than I could ever write.”
Mehigan’s choice of colours also constitutes a large part of her creation process. When gazing upon her work it’s common for your eyes to be met with an overstimulation of glitter, fluorescent and pastel tones.
“I've always had an obsession with pink and holographic stuff; trading cards, mermaids, sequins and costumes. I love the ridiculous hyper visibility of bright colours and how controlling they are, but I'm also wary of being 'too much' sometimes, so pastels are like a happy-medium.” Adding a self-confessed obsession with fabric also inspires colour decisions. “I want to be it or eat it or something. I sometimes wish I could wear every sequinned, metallic, holographic, pastel, fur thing I see, but I stick to using it in my work instead because that kind of visibility makes me extremely uncomfortable”.
Despite her works tackling quite a complex subject matter, Jennifer Mehigan is still able to create pieces of art that entice, and arouse desire. A characteristic undoubtedly similar to the Internet and the cyber world itself. I think it may be time for Jennifer to get over her discomfort with being visible, as I for one want to consume more and more of her work, and look forward to her fields of exploration to come.
Words / Jamie-Maree Shipton