The technical virtuosity and stylistic breadth of Karl Maughan’s painting is unmistakeable. An acute combination of naturalism and invention is revealed everywhere in his paintings.
Maughan’s paintings present notions of the cultivated ideal in which social associations, cultural dynamics and suggestive narratives emerge and simultaneously he reminds the viewer that each work is a world of painterly invention. He positions colour side by side in a manner which is abstract in style and delivery but which collectively establishes an environment so convincing in its naturalism that the viewer comes to believe he can enter the works. And smell them.
Maughan uses light to infuse pictorial height and depth, while also altering perspective in ways which are exceptional. He establishes “an ultra realistic chiaroscuro-modelled three dimensional space.” (1) He colours shadow and gets away with the impossible by presenting this as pictorial fact. Likewise the flowers perform a compositional role and as such are rendered by deliberate and distinct brush-strokes that function in an abstract colour-field: yet collectively they come to more than imply, they state everything about each flower.
Viewed close up, powerful rhythms and a sense of the painter’s hand making the marks emerge. However with distance the paintings coalesce and the effect is almost photographic. This dualism lies at the heart of Maughan’s work. The paintings in Oroua Valley are powerful testimony to how considerable this achievement now is.
1. Christopher Harrod, “Karl Maughan, Jo Pegler, Emily Wolfe,” NZ Art Monthly, December 2005/January 2006.