All Articles
All Articles

Interview: Jennifer Mehigan


Interview: Jennifer Mehigan

The fine artist goes in depth about the internet, cybersensuality and her remarkable work

by David Graver
on 24 April 2014
JenniferMehigan1.jpg JenniferMehigan2.jpg

There's twofold brilliance within the large-scale works of Sydney-educated, Singapore-based artist Jennifer Mehigan. From a purely visual standpoint, her swirls and slashes, blobs and explosive use of color please an exploring eye. Delving further, there is a taut aesthetic mastery across all the media choices she makes. Combining digital work with traditional painting, drawing and sculpting, there's no mistaking her style—even as she herself enters uncharted territory. At the crux of each piece (whether its an installation or mixed media painting) the artist probes stimulation, the lack thereof and how both affect an audience—perhaps especially in this age of internet and technology.

Mehigan took time to speak with CH, while she was taking down an exhibition done for Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. The young artist (born in Ireland in 1988) offered insight on how location has influenced her work, why pastel colors appeal to her and what cybersensuality means in the context of her creations.

What motivated the decision to step from graphic design in Sydney to fine art in Singapore?

I always wanted to feel comfortable with "fine art," but it was really difficult for me when I was younger. I enrolled in an art school for a semester when I first left high school and it was like, "Oh this is not for me at all." So I was lucky enough to be able to switch to design. But then when I started working in design I experienced the same thing again, so maybe I am just going to keep going back and forth forever. Moving location was the easy part because it was moving home. But convincing "art" that I'm not "too design" and vice versa is harder—and weirder.

Has location meant additional inspiration or altered your vision as an artist?

I didn't think it would but yeah, it made a big difference coming back to Singapore after a few years away. The feeling of moving home was comforting and there's a lot of parts of Singapore I ignored when I was younger and just desperate to leave, like the weird biotech, Gibson-esque side. The constant redevelopment has definitely got me obsessed with machinery and construction and destruction.

JenniferMehiganMaterialStudy1.jpg JenniferMehiganMaterialStudy2.jpg
You cross multiple media, but there is a strong, wondrous through-line to all your work. Do you know how define this aesthetic—do you need to? What inspired this type of work?

I don't really know how to define it, to be honest. I don't understand internet or post-internet art discussions enough to know where or if I have a place, but my aesthetic is definitely peri-internet or something like that. When I first started making things in design school I kind of went with either black and white or neon and pastel, candy colors and I'm still going with them because I love them. It's kind of silly (or sad) but I think I was really affected by the release of the iPhone and using a touch-screen all the time and the gesturing that comes with that—and then apps came out to paint with and so it was like a natural progression into "real" painting.

You coined the term "cybersensuality." What motivated its inception? What does it mean to you?

I think that was probably the closest I came to figuring out what my aesthetic was in a non-committal way. I needed a word that talked about desire and the computer and maybe "cyber" is a little dated but soft ghetto and grunge made '90s cyber stuff cute again so whatever. I feel like it's a word that works for a lot of images people are making and sharing online, like they're wet and glossy and sexy and repetitive and your body reacts to them but it's like—they are just pixels and it's all an illusion and the person who made them isn't really part of your experience but you need them for that image to exist. Like cybersex but visual or something.

JenniferMehiganFluid1.jpg JenniferMehiganFluid2.jpg
Furthering this, in the age of the internet, it's easier to group all queer artists together under one umbrella at times. Do you identify as a queer artist?

Yeah, I mean the word artist scares me more as an identifier than queer, ha. Queer visibility is definitely part of whatever I'm making right now and I don't want to avoid talking about it ever. But it's weird that you mention that grouping—since it's "become known," I guess, I've seen people on Twitter talking about me like, "Maybe someone to consider for a queer show in the future" and that makes me feel weird. But it depends entirely on who is doing the grouping. Sometimes it's cool for it to be recognized and sometimes it's like, "Nah not by you though."

You've just wrapped an exhibition. Can you share with us the material focus and what drove its inspiration?

I'm still developing work around cybersensuality, but with more of a focus on machines and touching on this kind of old idea of synthanatos that Nick Land spoke about in the '90s—but from a soft body dynamics point of view. I'm terrible at explaining things, but it's like an expansion on the death drive; this theory that we experience an artificial death that's induced every time we interact with a screen or a digital space and then I'm comparing that in a roundabout way to desire, orgasms (aka "la petite mort") and visualizing sex with the internet, dying on the internet, what the body/bodies would look like or feel like and stuff like that.

And of course, what will you be embarking on next? Or what do you hope for next?

I hope I can do all the work I have planned to do this summer. I get lost in fantasies way too easily, so I'm just gonna stick with my to-do list and keep working and hope that nice things happen, but if they don't that's OK too.

Further explore Mehigan's stunning, colorful work on her blog or Instagram.

Images courtesy of Jennifer Mehigan

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft
Loading More...