Karl Maughan’s efflorescent canvases ensnare their viewers as flowers woo bees. Each painting is a luxuriant profusion of colours, textures, and light and seems only just contained by the four sides of the canvas.
The central path often used by Maughan to draw the eye inwards is present in many of the works in South, but in others this element seems crowded out to the extreme edges of the canvas. In Rimu Road and Kowhai, the gardens are rampant and the spiky plants that dominate the latter’s composition adds to the sense of verdant, almost riotous, vegetation. Hapuku and Puzzle Peak offer the viewer only glimpses of open pathways beyond the shrubbery of the foreground.
These are seductive works. At close quarters the controlled composition of the paintings dissolves into fluid explorations of hue and texture. Maughan’s wet-on-wet technique produces luscious moments of colour and the energy caught in each of the painter’s brush-strokes reinforces the visual and physical tactility of the medium. Each of these elements works directly upon the senses, establishing an intimate relationship between the viewer and the painting.
Maughan’s landscapes are simultaneously filled with and free from life. The rounded forms of trees and bushes are full and fecund but despite the appearance of careful tending, there is an eerie absence of humankind in the gardens. The blooms are at the peak of their loveliness, paths and grassy edges are free from fallen leaves and bruised flowers: the beauty of the scene possesses a strange perfection. There is no sense that visitors tread the pathways or brush past flower-laden branches and this absence creates a sense of the uncanny in the works.
Karl Maughan depicts the unattainably perfect and en masse the paintings of South can be overwhelming. Seen in isolation however, each single work strikes a precarious balance between the ideal and the inexplicable, creating moments of captivating tension.