Epigram(me): Putting yourself on the map

Concordia artist bends space by using old maps as a medium

Trusting in her artistic instinct, when Audrey “Em” Meubus came across a collection of Montreal maps from the 1980s, she knew she had to do something with them.

“I’ve always liked maps for what they represent—it’s finding yourself, and it’s the comforting feelings they evoke,” she said.

This discovery was the beginning of a project culminating in Epigram(me), Meubus’ first solo exhibition as an illustrator.

Meubus, who completed her BFA in film animation at Concordia in 2013, has worked on stop-motion animation sets for works such as The Little Prince. For her latest project, Meubus drew upon her skills as a writer, illustrator and animator to superimpose her striking, emblematic drawings on carefully-selected and significant sections of the city maps.

These works drew strong positive responses from Meubus’ friends and family.

“I would have groups of people forming around these maps, and I knew I was onto something… people were connecting [with them],” she said.

The strength of Meubus’ work comes from their symbolic meaning. Viewing an illustration superimposed over a map of a familiar area can generate strong personal responses connected to memory and belonging. The dark, graphic lines of Meubus’ illustrations contrast starkly with the sun-faded maps, making for an interesting aesthetic and contrast, engaging both the mind and emotions.

After having experimented with maps as a medium, the next step was teaming up with Studio Beluga, a Montreal-based non-profit organization run by a collective of artists, art professionals and curators. According to their website, the studio was established with the goal of facilitating artistic practices and forming a creative community.

“I know a lot of musicians and people from the theatre world, and that’s how I first came upon Studio Beluga,” she said. “I approached them, time went by until they eventually told me they had a space and I jumped on it.”

The final ingredient in the realization of Meubus’ project was the imposition of a strict two-week time limit on her creative process, in which she created the six pieces that were part of her exhibition.

“I do my best work on a deadline. I have all these ideas and just have to get them out of my head as fast as possible,” she said. “If I hit a wall with one of them, I can just put it aside and work on another one. This speedy and concentrated method allows me to not get bored with what I’m doing.”

Although her backdrops and drawings have particular personal significance, Meubus said she wants the viewer to find their own personal meaning in her work—hence the addition of (me) to Epigram. The name highlights her desire to spark the memory and imagination of the viewer in their own unique and distinctive fashion. In this way, the audience can rediscover something of themselves in these works, between Meubus’ illustrations and the locations the maps portray.

The exhibition runs at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine until April 15.

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