Julian Meagher’s softly-hued still lifes proffer meditation on stillness, beauty and desire. Deftly assembled objects painted in luscious, layered glazes tease the viewer with immediate gratification, signaling – as the tradition of nature morte has always promised – a location for one’s selfhood through connection to ‘things’ and their ownership or symbolic meaning. Yet Meagher ups the genre’s ante and casts subtle clues toward unexpected paths, speaking to Australia’s often avoided, unquestioned histories of masculine toughness, vulnerability, drinking culture and sexuality. In his paintings, aged longneck drink bottles are vessels emptied, upended, transparent and inscribed with mottoes like ‘Pick-Me-Up’, ‘Bitter Ale’ and ‘Imperial Pint’. Native flora, lovingly reproduced, mostly flower or have gone to seed, illustrating differing cycles of sexual development.
Meagher also paints portraits of well-known football players, here using glazes to dramatize a precarious fragility in each man’s isolated facial expression. With some subject’s eyes uplifted to emphasize a prayerful supplication, in contrast to the usual ‘tough guy’, in-your-face attitude we expect from our athletes, these Aussies don’t sit comfortably within the norms of celebrity status.
Having originally trained as a medical doctor, Meagher studied Florentine Renaissance colour glazing technique in Italy. His work captures both a love of the sublime physicality of Giorgio Morandi and the deeply considered aesthetic of Japanese design and culture. Only a heartbeat away from the discomfiting, the artist’s luminous, ethereal technique is uniquely personal.
In 2009 and 2012, Julian was the recipient of the New Work Grant from the Australia Council of the Arts. He has been finalist multiple times in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, Salon des Refuses, Metro Art Prize, Blake Prize for Religious Art and the RBS Emerging Artist Prize. He has exhibited at the Melbourne International Art Fair in 2010 and 2012, the Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair in 2010 and Scope Miami in 2011 and 2012. Meagher was a finalist for the 2014 Archibald Prize.