The colour pink
These are the words I type into my notes app immediately after attending the opening of Sickness in the Sacristy by Megan Rudden at Saltspace—a fitting place for her work, surrounded as it is by the Necropolis and some of the oldest buildings in the city. There is an ancient history at large in this area; ghosts and witches have passed through, perhaps even some of those mentioned by the artist.
Opening the door, I find Megan seated and finishing her make-up, her physical identity always so much part of her work, the action of coating her lips in a ruby red a mini performance in itself. I pick up a glass of wine and marvel: there are gloopy altars, a suspended pink sculpture which reminds me of umbilical cords, a kitsch glow in a dark Jesus on the cross and engorged pink casts of the Virgin Mary that intermingle with typewritten texts, foam blobs, frames, hanging pieces, ceramics, photos and tongues of various materials covering walls, floors and even the supporting column in one part of the gallery.
Once the space has filled up and people are stepping around the floor pieces, Megan begins her performance, accompanied of course by a can of Tennents. I would expect nothing less. She lays texts selected from the neon pink book Sickness in the Sacristy on to a table covered with purple velvet fabric. Each card, produced by typewriter, features a lino cut print in the four suits on its reverse, ‘swords, wands, cups and pentacles like in tarot’, she tells me on an Instagram message. There are 52 cards in total, ‘…the number in a standard magician’s deck’, she also tells me.
I am positioned behind her dad as Megan begins. He stands proud in anticipation of his daughter’s performance. I see him at almost all of Megan’s exhibitions. The wall to his left is covered in religious paraphernalia gleaned by the artist from his personal collection. It soon becomes evident that while these objects mean a lot to Megan personally, their symbolism causes her some conflict. Megan tells of her first Holy Communion: of how she became sick after the ceremony, her body in an act of rejecting the body of Christ. She details experiences with the communion cake, leaky bodies, pomegranate seeds as contraceptive and Harry Houdini. She talks about her great grandmother’s ghost and church hall toilets, of séances and ectoplasm and crying over Louise Bourgeois artworks and of bonding with pals or lovers in cubicles while you spew, piss or shit. The sculptures Megan has made for this exhibition act as conduits to the stories she tells, giving us real time access to the dimensions of a spirit cabinet allowing the holy ghost to move through us too, even if it then makes an exit through the nearest available orifice.
Words spoken in Megan’s east coast accent conjure thoughts of our own altercations in such places. She purposefully turns the cards as if telling the future, as if she has important information to pass on from beyond the veil. Both she and others tell these stories as acts of resistance to the constant erasure of the labour and knowledge historically maintained and passed down by working class women. Given the continued campaigns against women and others deemed insignificant by those in religious and political power, now more than ever the insights imparted through Megan’s artwork and writing are vital.
Hayley Jane Dawson is a working class artist and writer living in Glasgow. They released the pamphlet ‘Fruiting’ with Lunchtime Gallery in February 2022.
Megan Rudden: Sickness In The Sacristy. 10-12 June 2022, Saltspace Co-Operative Gallery, Glasgow