"Megan, in my opinion, is one of the few artists … that has a visceral imagination that portrays horror, wonder, and beauty on canvas. Her use of shading has inspired my photos more than once, and continues to this very day. She's truly something special." Stephen Jackson, photographer, Rising Up studios, Tokyo.
Japan has a diverse art scene that spans far beyond stereotypes. There is a market for everything. Those opportunities exist in busy metropolitan cities but also in smaller cities and less-well-known prefectures. I recently interviewed an American artist who is originally from Minnesota. She lives in Gifu City and has been commissioned, sold, and continues exhibiting far and wide.
Nonetheless, the artist Megan Barnett, explained that painting is a relatively new profession for her. “I actually started to paint just last November! I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil and dabbled in painting during my senior year of high school. However, painting didn’t become my main medium until I challenged myself to create something larger than A4 size”, she said.
Art in Japan has a long history that transcends stereotypes. This includes horror and humor that can be seen in 16th and 17th century depictions of ghosts and monsters, and in Shunga eroticism throughout the Edo period. Megan might be in the right place. Yoshimi Ando thinks so, and said her, "Art always makes a big impression on me, keep painting … (the pictures) have a real life presence. They are great."
I asked how Megan would describe her work since a quick gander at her works illustrates a dark and intricate style. Accordingly, there is no easy way to describe her style. “If I had to pick one word it’d be evolving. I have what I consider roughly three main go-to styles (abstract, spooky, and art nouveau) but I am always trying to do something new in every piece and grow.”
RedMegs is not alone in trying to develop her art in Japan. Work hours and the lack of free time are familiar obstacles to many. Interestingly, Megan pointed out that it is easier to be an artist in Japan than the United States. “Being foreign has not much effect as the general art underground and culture here is open-minded and accepting of all styles and backgrounds. The only challenge is the language-barrier!”
Those barriers have not stopped her. “I’ve done two exhibitions as a part of art festivals/events … (Tokyo 2013, Yokohama 2014) … and a one month-long solo showcase in Gifu City throughout April this year. I’ll be at the Nagoya Creator’s Market on June 18th, 2016 and am looking to exhibit in a gallery and more events this year but nothing set-in-stone yet”.
(Gifu City Exhibition. April, 2016)
Some people shy away from developing their talents here due to the different and intricate culture and society that is Japan. However, “What’s great about Japan’s art culture is there is a place for everyone and every style somewhere here. Don’t worry about your technical skills or education, just be open, make what you want to make and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there”, she added.
RedMegs has developed a brand for herself and continues to engage with the artistic, foreign and traditional communities in Japan. Her story is an inspiration to those who may question their ability to develop their passions. It will be very interesting to see what happens to this American artist in the future. One can only wish her every success, and that people in and visiting Japan have the chance to view her work.