Maughan masterfully combines invention and naturalism. His carefully constructed garden scenes merge the natural world with one of order, balance and control; the cultivated ideal.
When engaging with the work there is a real sense of being there. Both aesthetically and emotionally pleasing, Maughan’s paintings have a richness of colour, clarity of form and sharp perspective that entices the viewer to the subject-matter. Compositional elements such as the trees in the foreground of Riverena, garden paths and deep shadows draw the viewer into the work, and make it seem very possible to look through the branches, around the corner of the rhododendron, or beneath the shadows to the pebbles on the cool ground below.
The large-scale works are all encompassing. Canterbury, Southland and Loveday Avenue show a panoramic landscape and the life-like scale of the works give the sense that this is only a window to the vast garden beyond, there is far more than the eye can see.
The viewer is compelled to move toward the work, to experience the garden and in doing so is confronted with a tactile and abstracted painting surface. “What originally appeared to be hyperrealism is actually broad dashes of paint. Up close these works are like impressionist paintings, a combination of gestural marks, pointillism, and the white of the canvas which gives the work its shimmering light.”(1)
Maughan’s ability to capture light and shadow is reminiscent of impressionist Masters and describes succinctly the mood and the time of day, whether in the dark contrasting shadow of the late afternoon Awahou North or in the bright midday sun Hiwinui and Riverena.
1. John Daly-Peoples, ‘Karl Maughan’s Gardens of Delight in Dunedin’, NBR, 2010.