TIM MAGUIRE: Everything Changes II, 2012. Courtesy the artist, Martin Browne Contemporary and Tolarno Galleries.THE gargantuan paintings of Tim Maguire from 2002 to 2017 form the summer exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery.
On view until February 18, they fill long walls and dominate gallery vistas with giant buds and petals so that the viewer may well feel like a bee or a butterfly, dwarfed by the surrounding blooms.
Yet an insect-scale view denies the other basic property of these imposing works; their close-up abstract quality.
The artist’s carefully developed technique is based on an astute use of photographic processes, where a blown-up and cropped image is treated very much like something commercially printed, except that the layers of colour separations are painted by hand, creating fluid veils of translucence whose smooth surfaces are animated by spatters of solvent.
Random effects are encouraged.
This creates a curious alienation, balancing the allure of the natural world against a push/pull effect, emotional yet dehumanised.
The traditional use of the fragility of flowers to suggest fleeting life and mortality is subverted both by scale and by surface.
These flowers might be trapped in amber.
Interestingly, there is more sense of life in several dark paintings; the recently completed snow falling through bare black branches and a dramatic vision of the burnt-out desolation of the landscape following the 2014 bush fires in Victoria, already showing green tinges of new life.
As well as the expansive paintings, the exhibition includes similar works in light box and video, indicating the ever-expanding career that allows Tim Maguire to divide his time between France and .
The genesis for the Newcastle exhibition may well have arisen from the artist’s extremely generous donation in 2016 of 16 works to the gallery’s collection. From its earliest days the Newcastle collection has depended on the generosity of individuals.
TRANSMISSIONTRANSMISSION, the exhibition at The Lock-Up that closed recently, featured artmaking by Indigenous artists at the cutting edge of contemporary controversy. As the spectacular Songlinesexhibition at the National Museum in Canberra exhaustively demonstrates, Aboriginal artists are increasingly concerned to protect, disseminate and even recreate their traditional cultural heritage.
At The Lock-Up, curator Cherie Johnson’s wall of portrait photographs documented the profound emotional experiences of women with claims to Aboriginal ancestry when first putting on a possum skin cape.The confirmation of identity can also come from museums, with Vicki West from Tasmania creating a range of water containers from the leathery fronds of seaweed. A project involving sculptural weaving involved many of the area’s high schools, while a well-attended symposium investigated issues of ownership, appropriation and continuity in today’s rapidly evolving society.
FRANK CELTLANFRANK CELTLAN, who died recently at the age of 81, was a painter with a long history in our area; a veteran of many exhibitions since 1962 and a respected and formative teacher.
He arrived from the National Art School in Sydney in 1964 and his teaching career covered the almost 50 years of the growth and decline of the Art School in Newcastle.
He was one of the six or seven serious painters on the staff during a golden age when lucky students learned their trade from a wide range of figurative and abstract painters, most of them now dead. The quality of the staff is evident in the work of several generations of Newcastle graduates who benefited from Frank’s academic standards, his unerring sense of composition and strong tonal assurance.
Maybe, too, they were drawn to the complex emotional undercurrents in his painting.
Few artists use their own lives as consistently as Frank Celtlan’s vivid visual autobiography, focused for almost 30 years on his life with his wife Sonia. Even still life studies of her cast-off clothing invoke the fraught tensions of the relationship.
Later works centring on his daughter and her family look nostalgically inward, often in layered interiors with sly implications of secret spaces, regularly with Frank himself as a peripheral presence.
It is this ability to create a psychological force field with the simplest compositional juxtapositions that makes Frank’s paintings and prints instantly recognisable in all the area’s public and private collections.
I really hope someone is planning a major retrospective.