*Please note due to COVID-19 lockdowns in Auckland, dates are subject to change.
For an impressive four decades Wellington based painter Karl Maughan has been an artist devoted to communicating “the forms of nature and the nature of form” within his gardenscapes (2020, intro.). It has made him one of the country’s most recognisable artists, and he continues with his signature style in his latest exhibition.
Just as gardens are lovingly cultivated, so too does Maughan cultivate his paintings. Working closely with printed photographs from both New Zealand and England landscapes, he trims and rearranges, nurturing his compositions into lush arrangements. The result is a garden like none other; otherworldly. Flora and fauna that are both deeply familiar, yet unrecognisable, in colour and form. This series of paintings are seasonless, with every flower captured at the peak of its blooming life, and every sky an eternal blue. There is no evolution or life cycle within these gardens, they are frozen in perpetual perfection. The result is a painting that is comforting in its joyful expression of beauty, yet also uneasy in its disassociation from reality.
This gentle unease is also felt when considering the names of Maughan’s paintings. For this series, Maughan has chosen notably New Zealand placenames, as they are all in te reo Māori. Yet the specificity of the names is starkly contrasted with the fantasy of the gardens, as we are unable to place them specifically in time and location. This reinforces how “Maughan’s paintings transport the viewer beyond the constraints of reality, resulting in a touch of unease that is an essential part of their beauty.” (2020, p.16)
This new series of paintings also reintegrate the pathway, a recurring compositional feature of Maughan’s oeuvre. These pathways lead the eye up towards the mountains in the distance, and there is a strong sense of the unknown beyond. “Maughan features a path as a means to create tension within the composition: the path beckons the viewers into the painted world, while the intricately patterned flowers and foliage flatten the pictorial space, resisting viewer absorption.” (2020, p. 16).
Maughan’s enduring devotion to his gardenscapes is equally matched by both private and public collectors alike. His work is held in households around the country, as well as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Christchurch City Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.
- Imogen Cahill 2021
Valentine, H. and Stead, G. (eds), 2020. Karl Maughan. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press.