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'Meagan Jacobs is a rarity. Rare in the subtlety of her colour and rare in her soulful and concrete commitment to landscape. Composed of strong interlocking forms, her work is meditative,  both tightly knit and unpredictably expansive. “It’s strange” she admits “to fit the whole of the desert into the small square of a painting. Looking out into this amazing vista, how do you compress it? I guess my discipline is to distil. What is physically available becomes a template for the infinite.”


For the past three years, Jacobs has worked with the Warlukurlangu Artists. Warlukurlangu means ‘belonging to fire’ in the local language, Warlpiri, and is named after a fire dreaming site west of Yuendumu. It was here that she took the long dawn walks before the sun turns to flame. It was here that she flew over a land so vast it was convex. And it was here that her relationship to colour, three decades deep, came into its own power. Her hues are not literal. Red earth might be the core of the centre, almost a signal of place, yet it is also a pigment that creates a veil of delicate light, bruised with violet and blue grey. 


Jacobs’ desert is a polyphony, both verdant or parched. 

Working on boards with oils, she enjoys the luxury of time and the chance to scrape back sheer passages or intensify her paint in rich layers. Her compositions bear the freedom of collage. Their forms can look torn open or delicately fused. Wed to abstract lineage, the paintings cleave between a basis in nature and the raw energy of geometry. In many you can find mountains, branches and ravines but they also converge. In her hands the conventional process of breaking down a physical form into an abstract shape is not predictable. Jacobs has such a firm grip on pure abstraction that her work satisfies completely polar axioms: the romantic landscape and the compelling void.


Informed by her passion for cartography,  the paintings can float or feel anchored and magnetic; carved with the monumental density of rock. Her line and forms speak of geology in an intimate way, almost as if her expeditions into crags and foothills forged an earth-bound cosmology.


In this work the joy is palpable. The paintings in “Earth to Sky” make the potential for pattern and colour relationships seem boundless. In the desert it seems that the idea of a changing sky and a fixed earth is inverted, as the spinifex form their own clouds. In the interior, instead of dessication, Jacobs finds opulence. A fertile meeting place for mineral blues and rose petal ochres. Her palette builds in a refined accretion:


“Nothing changes and everything changes. Roads, rocks, land formations, distant views, and mapping are the ‘subjects’ that matter to me. I’m compelled by geometry. My paintings are the mapping of where I’ve been. When you spend a deep amount of time in a vast place you begin to notice confluences between the patterns of rocks, land and trees. And formally the work contains those layers, the strata built by time. I like the history of what’s come before to come through, so I fracture the surface.”


In April of this year, Jacobs moved to Warialda (the place of wild honey) in rural NSW. The shift has influenced the construction of her paintings. The dominant line of the horizon in her desert works start to tumble and dance in these parts. Yet bridging the distance is the shared language of stone. In Warialda geology speaks:


“The rock formations around here are Mount Kaputar - ancient volcano, the sandstone outcrop along the Koorilgur walk and the precarious giant boulder stacks on the outskirts of town belonging to the traditional owners the Kamilaroi people.”


The influence of mountains and boulders lends a replete quality to her paintings. Each piece locks boldly into place. The sharp contrasts of colour work like  tectonic plates, thrusting landforms from their ancient roosts, presenting an earth that is volatile and alive. Wedding bare expanses of colour to pockets of intricate pattern, the impact is tactile. While most of the paintings are not massive in scale they are immersive. A potent yield of so many years in wild places.


The studio at Warialda rambles across the rooms of an old house. Sprawling her colours out on a massive kitchen bench that serves as her palette, Jacobs takes pleasure in mixing every shade and says she has a keen memory for every mutation of colour. “Nothing straight from the tube” is her rule and it seems to reflect her way. A deeply personal perception of nature. And, through hard won communion, a language that is hers alone.'


Anna Johnson

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