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Karl Maughan Exibition to Open in Wellington

Monet used landscapes, Matisse used faces and Rembrandt used still life arrangements… And they were all dedicated to one focus: how their given media caught light. Karl Maughan has the same dedication. His chosen media: lavish New Zealand gardens.

In his new exhibition at Wellington’s Page Blackie Gallery, Maughan brings the outdoors in with an exhibition of stunning botanical vistas that are too good to be true. Ten canvases of blooming flora initially offer a dazzling representation of a perfect garden in Spring, almost photographic in clarity. However, these beautifully rendered scenes are not quite as they seem. Hundreds upon thousands of slashes of painted colour make up a work, with the compositions referenced from real gardens around New Zealand as well as the artist’s memory or imagination.

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By painting an entire work wet (rather than building up dry layers) Maughan achieves the clear, crisp appearance that has made him famous around the world – collected by Charles Saatchi, Cate Blanchett and Cindy Crawford, among many others. His technique, which has intrigued so many lovers of fine art, affords the works an amazing dual affect of photo-realism and abstraction. Back away and the works are photographic; zoom in and the works reveal quick brushstrokes of thickly applied oil paint, as though applied by an abstract expressionist painter.

In addition to the visual symphonies that painted gardens afford, Maughan is also interested in the social implications of the manicured garden space: “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.”

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Maughan has enjoyed a highly successful artistic career so far. After completing his Master of Fine Arts at Elam in 1987 he lived in London for 10 years, where he shared a studio with 12 other artists studying at Goldsmith’s College. Charles Saatchi included Maughan in shows including Neurotic Realism (1998) and I am a Camera (2001). Maughan was also a finalist in the prestigious John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize (previous winners include Peter Blake, David Hockney and Peter Doig). More recently Maughan has had a survey show A Clear Day at Te Manawa Museum and Art Gallery in Palmerston North, and his latest venture, cutting up a 5 metre oil painting featuring over 1000 of his iconic rhododendron flowers is to be used as 1000 labels for the Christensen Estate winery, to mark the winery’s first vintage.


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