Based in London, New Zealander Karl Maughan has made a name for his self among the elite of the international art scene; but unlike most of the Young British Artists Maughan does not rely on arty shock tactics to get his message across; Karl Maughan paints gardens. See his new work at Gow Langsford Gallery – Auckland from 9th March.
In Maughan’s gardens rhododendrons burn; blossoms uncurl and fern fronds seamlessly come to life as if they were a part of Alice’s Wonderland. Every bloom is complete and every leaf whole; there are never traces of insect strike nor does a single flower ever wilt. Void of natural imperfections his paintings could be glimpses of an eclectic paradise.
Each work is made up from sections of different gardens transported from Maughan’s prolific photographic archives and rearranged into new and convincing arrangements. All gardens are up for grabs as far as Maughan is concerned; often segments of landscapes from opposite hemispheres are paired together in his compositions. At a distance the works could be the photographs themselves but rather, the gardens are made from a myriad of tiny brushstrokes. Maughan is so successful in his approach that his shows in New Zealand always sell out and he has the accolade of being in the prestigious international collection of Charles Saatchi. Their inexplicable quality lies largely in the application of the paint. The subject matter, though not superfluous, is not where the significance lies. Maughan’s works are articulate, entirely compelling, unified pieces that give a Modern perspective on the techniques of painting that are at least as old as the Impressionists.
Maughan attributes his choice of subject to gardening parents and although not incidental, this choice moreover enables him to explore the effects of light and colour in his environments, and to, of course, show off his talent as a painter. Despite being well versed in botanical genera Maughan is not a gardener himself, although he does like the idea of it.
Like the arty shock tactics, Maughan avoids a pop-star approach to art making. He left New Zealand in 1994 with an MFA from Elam, and made his connections in the art world through sharing studios with students of Goldsmiths in London, who graduated about the time that Maughan arrived. Although Maughan has trouble neither pressing-the-flesh nor striking a pose for the art paparazzi, his work itself holds its own confident authority within the international art scene.
While currently based in London Maughan returns to New Zealand frequently and maintains an established and regular exhibition profile in both nations. New work comes directly from his London studio to Auckland viewers.