Julian Meagher uses art to make sense of the world, charging his romantic compositions with difficult questions about masculinity, mortality and our nation’s self-image. His works speak to physical and social landscapes of Australia, the histories we inherit and how we reconcile our own place in those legacies as we move forward. Recently he became a parent, a development that has shifted his contemplations on legacy to more immediate matters. Experiencing life through the wonderous eyes of his children has given him pause – and a pensive new outlook that has also altered his relationship to painting.
His already sparse landscapes are now pared even further back, fading out to ambiguous colour fields. Less didactic and more lyrical than earlier works, they eschew representation in favour of evocations of moments – light dwindling through a window, a child’s laugh, storms out to sea. Viewed alongside his intimately-scaled portraits, they hint at the tension this new father feels – delighting in his children’s innocence, while knowing they’ve arrived into a world that’s never felt so uncertain. They suggest that while Meagher’s concern for the future remains, he has a renewed appreciation of what it’s all for.
Julian Meagher has exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally. A multiple time finalist in the Archibald Prize (2018, 2015, 2014) and Salon Des Refuses (2018, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2003), his work has also been recognised in the Glover Award (2019), Paddington Art Prize (2018), Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award (2017, 2016), Mosman Art Prize (2013), Doug Moran Portrait Prize (2012, 2009), Metro Art Prize (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009), Black Swan Prize for Portraiture (2010) and the Blake Prize (2009). Selected for the invitation-only Gold Award at Rockhampton Art Gallery, he was the recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grant in 2012 and 2009.