Karl Maughan’s new exhibition at our Kitchener St Gallery presents a suite of works that are accented with sunflowers, harking back to the flora featured in the artist’s early period.
On this occasion, we are pleased to release the new limited edition screenprint Rata Road, which Maughan has worked on over the course of the year. Moreover this year, Gow Langsford Gallery has worked alongside Auckland University Press to publish a new artist monograph on the artist. Launching alongside the exhibition, the book celebrates the artist’s contribution to New Zealand art. An excerpt from the introduction follows:
“There are no paintings of gardens in New Zealand quite as familiar as those of Karl Maughan. Since his first solo exhibition in Wellington in 1987, Maughan’s commitment to the garden as a framework for painting has been enduring. His practice is invitational, immersive, and obsessive. He is a constructor of worlds, compiling and piecing together imagery to create gardens that emanate a sense of possibility, mystery, and delight.
Gardens are not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Instead we might think of them as second nature: a Sisyphean engagement with the natural world resulting from human negotiations with plants and soil. Deeply rewarding, gardening requires effort, care and dedication, providing us with food and medicine as well as nourishment for our spiritual and aesthetic desires. As a species we have carved out botanical spaces for millennia, designing them in our image, according to our tastes. ‘It’s universal’, Maughan muses, ‘we’ve been fencing off the wild - forests, animals - forever, to have a space of our own, and not just to keep us safe.’
For Maughan, the garden has developed into a visual language, grown over the course of his career and, like any language, borne from close observation. Maughan collects photographic records of green spaces, from his neighbours’ back garden to visits to established public gardens in New Zealand and England. Like a gardener, he takes cuttings of favoured plants from these photographs, transplanting them to form small collages which often form the basis for a painting. In doing so, he interferes with photography’s innate capability to record space as we see it.
There are clear parallels between making gardens and making art. Both are hands-on creative practices; they require physical labour to transform raw materials into spaces that frame the natural world. In doing so, they might both be considered cultural microcosms, reflecting social concerns and aesthetic values. Maughan’s compositions are differentiated from the landscape tradition; they are paintings of nature filtered through culture - cultivated.
In a conversation during the COVID-19 level 4 restrictions, Maughan told us about the importance of community for inspiration. Perhaps this is the reason for his unfaltering popularity. The garden is a ubiquitous presence in our everyday lives, providing a backdrop for the joyous moments while making the quotidian memorable. The garden provides us solace and calm in times of stress. Over the course of this trying year, and confined to the space of our homes, we have been discussing the heightened importance of our gardens as a space of reprieve. Once more, the similarities between art and gardens are clear. Both have the ability to provide respite and offer hope, to console and delight in equal measure.”