Employing plural techniques involving drawing, the traditions of engraving and printmaking with a digitised mechanical process, shell inlay and layered painting, Paul McLachlan has pioneered a profoundly unique new visual language as the aptly titled exhibition Echoes clearly demonstrates.
McLachlan explicitly references the philosophical concerns of Charles Brasch and converses with the sublime, thereby using nature and symbolic motifs to express both the personal and universal. Dichotomies lie at the centre of his work – permanence/impermanence, motion/stillness, sea/land, spiritual/humanist, rising/falling, architecture/landscape, and so on. It is this space ‘between’ things, us and nature, myth and fact and the ‘disputed ground’ amid these that comes to propel the pertinence of the time-travelling narratives of his work. He presents “the landscape not only as a physical entity but also as a gateway to the realms of the spiritual and imaginative”. 1
In works such as Eden’s Refuge, Arboreal Flares, Silent Presences and Doubtful Earth he establishes ecological parables inhabited by birds and animals. Developing the protective architecture of trees as if the inside of a colonnaded mosque, we witness landscapes imbued with considerable detail in a perpetual state of (imperilled) flux.
McLachlan employs symbolic motifs – in particular native birds such as the albatross and hawk – and the sensations of pattern to startling effect in Arcane Resonance, Echoes and Solar Surrender. Not so immediately apparent but equally significant is the role performed by the multiple layers of paint. While at first seeming lightly modulated and in essence a single colour-field, it soon becomes readily apparent that such simplicity is deceptive: light-strike brush marks and the chromatics of saturated tone and differing hue emerge which actively extend the substance and physical presence of each work.
Amongst the numerous qualities of all the works is the stylistic role developed by the recessed lines alongside the visual rhythms and expressive gestures of the rising and falling energised lines. In Uncharted Solace and Seismic Tides we are adrift on the cathedrals of the ocean, in Dawns of Promise we look upon three circling birds above a forest of ponga ferns. In Upsurge and Torrent McLachlan further demonstrates his stylistic virtuosity where he intervenes by imposing an abstracted circular gesture in the foreground.
1. Paul McLachlan, Artist's Statement, 2023.