Julian Meagher @ Lindberg Galleries

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Thursday, 21 April 2011 

Julian Meagher @ Lindberg Galleries

In his current exhibition at Lindberg Galleries, Julian Meagher continues themes and subjects of his previous bodies of work, notably the exploration of masculinity in the context of contemporary culture. The exhibition consists of portraits, still lives, and figure studies, and it is apparently accompanied by a performance (as an installation of a bottle and a bucket and several performance stills would suggest).

JM Julian Meagher Spin the Bottle 2011Central to the exhibition is one ofAustralia’s icons of masculinity, a slab of VB, a monumental painting of which dominates the show. Majority of the paintings feature most delicately executed Chinese blue and white porcelain vases with traditional decorations. However, at a closer look one begins to notice the presence of a slab or a bottle of VB in each scene as an object of veneration, diplomatic or courtly exchange, or an essential part of a traditional banquet or ceremony. While initially this appears extremely clever, by the time you encounter it for the sixth time in a row, the idea becomes rather laboured and looses its initial strength and cleverness.

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Most of the vases are painted with either orchids or quintessentially Australian flowers known as kangaroo paws, which are likewise most delicately and beautifully executed against a predominantly blank background. As such they are somewhat reminiscent of works by Dane Lovett (see an earlier post on this artist’s works). However, if the self-referentiality (still-lives as self-portraits) soon becomes apparent in Lovett’s work, I personally do not believe that Meagher’s still-lives carry the same semantic connotation.

Julian Meagher Boys Don't Cry 2011On the other hand, in such works as Only Real Men Wear Pink and Boys Don’t Cry, psychological overtones of Meagher’s paintings and the overall narrative of the exhibition become more apparent, as the artist juxtaposes such staples of contemporary masculinity as tattoo-covered bodies, muscular torsos, and clenched fists with softer, emotional, feminine sides of the human psyche.

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The exhibition also features two most excellent portrait heads, one of which is a self-portrait, showing the artist as a most gifted and talented practitioner of the genre. I believe these were painted from life, which is a sad and fast-disappearing rarity in the contemporary portrait practice (where so many artists prefer the quick fix of a digital camera!). The faces are well-constructed, showing the artist’s intimate knowledge of physiognomy. Each portrait is a product of a complex layering, and skin tones are rendered in a multitude of most delicate glazes. The resulting three-dimensionality of the portraits is quite astonishing, and faces seem to leap out from the two-dimensional constraints of the canvas.



[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

April 2011


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