I’m interested in all the cultural associations we all have with the idea of the garden. They are a central part of the idea of civilisation, the first instance of humans asserting their control over nature” (1)
Like the mythological Arcadia, the composite garden-scapes depicted by Karl Maughan do not exist in reality but come from the imagination of the artist. Using a palette of jewel-like hues, he paints flowers and foliage as they would be in an eternal garden – in bright, full bloom, untouched by time or decay. Pathways appear to draw the viewer to unseen glades ‘just around the corner.’ These cultivated facades are enticing, but hint at an uneasy beauty concealed beneath the surfaces of his tightly controlled vistas.
Seen up close, Maughan’s vivid layering of colour becomes an abstracted investigation of tone and hue: “Rather than blending colours, he uses clean colours side by side; this ‘alla prima’ (wet onto wet) technique was popular with the Impressionists" (2). The hand of the painter is clearly evident in his deft placement of bursts of lime or orange or white to highlight details of flower and foliage. The energy of Maughan’s brushstrokes along with his self-assured use of luminous colour creates paintings of complexity and depth.
In 1986 Maughan earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland and completed one year of a Master of Fine Arts in 1987. He has been exhibiting regularly since then and spent much of the 1990s in London where his works caught the attention of British arts benefactor Charles Saatchi. Inclusion in the Saatchi Gallery’s exhibitions The Neurotic Realism (1998) and I’m a Camera (2001) followed. During his time in London Maughan was a finalist in the prestigious John Moore London Awards. (3) He returned to New Zealand in 2005 and is now based in Wellington. Maughan’s works can be seen in private homes, corporate collections, and public institutions throughout the country and abroad.
1. Karl Maughan as cited by Creative Giants of Palmerston North (2015). Karl Maughan. Retrieved from http://www.creativegiants.co.nz/view/artist-index/m/karl-maughan.php
2. Natalie Poland, Manawatu Art Gallery Information Sheet, April 1998.
3. Sarah Cathedrall (2012). Karl Maughan’s Language of Flowers. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/6350181/Karl-Maughans-language-of-flowers
Karl Maughan talks to Vanessa Jones about the works in his newest exhibition at Milford Galleries Dunedin.
Video production: Ross Wilson