Julian Meagher’s latest exhibition ‘Tidelines’ came from three unusual sources of inspiration: a National Park location, a visually impaired student, and the impending birth of his first child. The result is a departure for the figurative painter into landscape, free brush-strokes and memory.
‘I haven’t painted landscapes for over a decade,” says Meagher. “I wanted to use the opportunity of a residency to go into new ground. Something clicked during my time there, especially the need to paint with more freedom, risk and intuition’. Meagher’s wife Beejal was also eight-months pregnant at the time, and the circumstances and surroundings opened up new aesthetic and emotional registers to explore on canvas.
‘It wasn’t only about responding to the environment and my place within it, it was something more to do with becoming a father I think. Just a month prior to the arrival of our first child, the residency took place at a profound time in our life. I spent many days painting watercolours in the sand dunes of Bithry Inlet as the tides ran in and out. The solitude and forced simplicity (and being out of mobile range) was welcome.”
‘I thought a lot about country while living in the National Park and the heartbreaking history of first Australians in the area. The concept of songlines as well as narrative through mark making influenced me greatly. Each morning watching the sunrise from the shoreline, I felt the shadow of inherited guilt of being a privileged white male. What right do I have to paint such a beautiful stolen landscape? What kind of Australia do I want my son to grow up in? I think love is often the sharpest tool in the box. The resulting paintings are unashamedly romantic and optimistic.’
‘I wanted these large oil paintings to retain the energy of quick watercolour sketches. One day I worked with a student as part of the residency program. He was visually impaired, and I would place the brush onto the paper for him to then paint with. He said he was painting from memory, having visited the Inlet as a child prior to losing his sight. I think this single moment made me realize how much control I placed on my own mark making, and really opened my mind to the possibility of letting a painting exist in a place outside my destination for it.”
‘Spending long periods watching the tides run in the Inlet really made me think about the cycles that govern everything. Living in the city these cycles aren’t so evident, time is a lot more linear and driven by more imagined constructs. I think I also felt this release when I became a father, my sense of self is now more governed by something external and greater than me. I have since been trying to translate this feeling into paint.’
Julian Meagher has exhibited with Edwina Corlette Gallery for the past decade. He is a three time finalist in the Archibald Prize with a portrait of actor John Waters (2014), the musician Daniel Johns (2015) and writer Richard Flanagan (2018), and has been a finalist in the Gold Award, Moran Prize, Blake Prize and Wynne Prize for landscape (2015).