WHEN : 8th - 29th November
WHERE : Edwina Corlette Gallery
There is something eerily familiar about the trees that have begun to sprout up in Tim McMonagle’s work in recent times. An artist who has spent almost two decades disseminating human nature’s foibles and absurdities through his whimsical compositions, McMonagle has increasingly found himself compelled to consider the curious lifecycle of our majestic native gums. Already rich with folkloric, religious, and cultural symbolism, trees take on even greater significance in a country such as Australia, where the bush and outback landscapes are so closely intertwined with our national identity. Endlessly diverse in form, character and colour, their broken limbs and struggle for new growth provide McMonagle with the ideal allegory from which to contemplate the complexities of humanity and our connection to environment. Knotted, gnarled, and rather like a surreal Australian version of Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, they dominate his canvases the way they do the outback, anthropomorphised to appear as the ultimate survivors in an unforgiving landscape.
But it isn’t solely McMonagle’s unique observations on life and the milieu that makes these works so compelling. Concurrent to his propensity for quirky imagery is a deep and abiding respect for the act of painting. Each canvas is a testament to his commitment to technique and mark making, and the enjoyment he gets from pushing paint around while lost in the creative process. Though an important element of his work, his subject matter becomes less about conveying sentiment than it is a device for capturing attention and luring his audience in. Doggedly devoted to his artistic practice, he rehearses each piece by sketching and drawing his ideas multiple times so as to become intimately acquainted with every line and detail. By the time he is ready to commit to the canvas, he knows the image well enough that he is able to make his brushstrokes appear spontaneous and organically formed. Seen up close, each fragment of the whole could potentially be observed as its own abstracted composition, such is the detail of his work.
Born in New Zealand, Tim McMonagle has spent the majority of his life working and studying in Melbourne, Australia. Winner of the 2010 Fletcher Jones Art Prize for his work The happy song, he was named a finalist in the 2012 Archibald Prize for his portrait of art collector Michael Buxton, and has twice been amongst the Wynne Prize finalists (2015/16) for this series of tree landscapes. A veteran of over forty solo and group exhibitions, his work is held in major public, private and university collections throughout Australia.
Julian Meagher’s delicate oil paintings are often based around masculine rituals and symbols, such as disembodied heads of sporting heroes and old beer bottles found by divers in Sydney Harbour. Meagher’s interest in both personal and collective inherited history including links to our national identity, is evident in much of his subject matter.
In his latest show ‘Everybody talk in their sleep’ Meagher celebrates the infamous goon bag, long ago seared into our national psyche almost as a rite of passage. Our memories lie trapped within the endless reflections and refractions of its surface. His paintings whimsically reference Warhol’s Silver Clouds work, as well as Christo’s wrappings as a form of revelation through concealment. Meagher states too that he has been disappointed by Sydney’s recent lock out laws that have amputated much of the important late night cultural landscape of the city, his work ‘Article 19′ directly referencing our right to freedom of expression.
In 2009 and 2012 he was the recipient of the New Work Grant from the Australia Council of the Arts. He has been a finalist multiple times in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, the Salon des Refuses, the Metro Art Prize and the Blake Prize for Religious Art. He was been a finalist in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Archibald Prize in 2014 and 2015, the Wynne Prize in 2015 and the Gold Award in 2016.
Image: Tim McMonagle – In the middle (2016)