Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Friday on his mind

Karl Maughan: Every day is like Sunday
Gow Langsford
23 June - 17 July 2009

This latest show of Karl Maughan’s displays nine works. Naturally they are all of flowers and bushes, impeccably trimmed and radiant in glorious spring weather. Such images tend to look far better at a distance than close up where you get a sense of him working speedily, impatiently placing his marks on flower heads with a machine-like repetition - as if he were a closet Futurist. There is no loving application of pigment here to convey a lyrical plasticity. It is manic, done by rote, and somewhat coarse.

Standing back they are not so raw or nasty, and the sculptural floral geometry Maughan obviously loves emerges. The best work though is not using his usual square or horizontal rectangle but a vertical oblong. Penelope Road has a sense of perspective, pulling the eye towards the centre, and not reinforcing the presence of the picture plane.

The works that generate a little interest are where the non-floral components that provide respite from chromatic bombarding are more carefully thought out. Kumeroa has a shady bending path, Ruawhata some gravely steps on the bottom left, Saddle Road a sweet patch of vivid green lawn in its centre, and Speedy Road, peeking through an array of bobbing flower heads at the top, some luxuriant flat lowlands on the other side of an estuary.

It would be interesting to see what this artist would come up with if he weren’t so frantic in his application, so frenetically obsessed with rendering more and more blooms. While obsession can be good for a career there must come a time when an artist’s audience becomes bored. It is astounding he is not bored himself. Perhaps he is? Maybe that explains the rush, the incessant drive to quickly finish one copse of colour and get on with the next. A purging to get to that quota by the end of the week.

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