First museum show for Tim Maguire

Living between France and Australia has paved an interesting career path for Tim Maguire, as a major solo exhibition at Newcastle Art Gallery reveals.
First museum show for Tim Maguire

EVERYTHING CHANGES: Tim Maguire 2002 - 2017 at Newcastle Art Gallery until 18 February 2018

Tim Maguire is an Australian artist who has truly managed to hyphenate his career across Australia and France, finding touchstones of scale and nature that allow the work to be seamlessly read by audiences as familiar, regardless of the location of its making.

Since the early 1990s Maguire has lived and worked between the two countries, and while a prolific painter with an enviable international exhibition history, his first major museum show in Australia was unveiled just this week at the Newcastle Art Gallery (NAG).  


Lauretta Morton, Gallery Manager NAG, said: ‘Tim Maguire's exhibition EVERYTHING CHANGES is such a landmark exhibition for Newcastle – for Australia. Tim's personal investment in the development of this exhibition has been vital. He's really gotten on board. Only a couple of weeks ago the paint was still drying on some of these works!’

She continued: ‘I think one of the things Newcastle Art Gallery does extremely well is developing exhibitions in partnership with the artist. Curatorial rigour can be a double-edged sword, and we are particularly careful to maintain the involvement of the artist.’

EVERYTHING CHANGES is a suite of 20 works spanning the years 2002 to 2017. Collectively, they deliver the cinematic scale and romantic aspects which are signatures of Maguire’s work, but they also play a little with our perceptions, evidence of the artist’s interest in experimenting with material which his recent works have pushed to new levels.

Maguire said of the exhibition: ‘For me it was important to have a show of new work; this is not a retrospective or a survey. The principle of the show was to show large work; Newcastle Gallery is an exceptional space and it allows for a totally different experience of the work.’

The smallest work in the exhibition measures 180 x 160 cm, while the largest – Kinglake Panorama (2015) – stretches to 7.2 meters in length. ‘I am interested in that big sweep and how your eye moves over the surface,’ Maguire noted.

Kinglake Panorama (2015) latex print on paper 223.0 x 738.0 cm; Artist collection Courtesy Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

He added: ‘Ironically everyone thinks of Australia for its wide open spaces, but my studio space in Sydney is tight compared to rural France, where I work half the year. I paint in an old agricultural barn that previously housed harvesters. The paintings don’t look so big on the walls there.

‘While there are plenty of big spaces around, the thing that is almost unique to Newcastle is that it is one big space, not a succession of galleries. You can stand in that upstairs gallery and look around the walls. It’s a chance to have 10 to 15 big works in a room and read the connections between them,’ he told ArtsHub.

The exhibition offers other surprises. It is not just about big paintings, but also big prints, big video projections, and a big lightbox work made specifically for the exhibition and measuring 2.5 x 4 metres.

Morton explained: ‘This is a recent development in Maguire's arts practice where he prints directly onto translucent acrylic panels using the same print separation process and introducing light from behind the picture plane in a celebration of light, time and colour, proving that Maguire is the painter's time traveller.’

Maguire takes that idea of time further: 'By constructing my paintings as transparently as possible, I seek to make the process apparent, so that every gesture remains visible. And, as it is inherent in the nature of paint to dry, each layer is itself a little battle with time – it’s always unpredictable. So I need to work fast, with big brushes and loosely approximate gesture.’

Untitled 20020701  (2002) oil on canvas 252.0 x 412.0cm; Private collection Courtesy the artist

The exhibition starts with a Camelia painting – blown up to an implausible scale – which Maguire made in 2002 for Melbourne Art Fair, and has not been shown since. Over a third of the works have been made in recent months and offer a kind of stitching together of past and present.

He explained: ‘In my work, I am interested in the breakdown of the image through separating the layers of colour – a principal which comes from printmaking and colour photography. I have been making prints for the last 30 years and am interested in the idea of just making use of three or four colours, and the surprise when they are superimposed one over the other.

‘I also worked with those processes across painting, and then started getting interested in video and trying to make colour separation in the moving image. One medium feeds the other and is transported and takes on another level.’

Maguire said that he has always been interested in randomness and the accidental, and that can be seen in the process, but also in the random pixilation across the screen in his videos.

‘I have taken footage of the water at Bondi at dusk and slowed it to a quarter of the speed and added complexity by desynchronizing – it is up to us to stop and look at it and find its beauty,’ he said of the work Bondi, on show at NAG.

Maguire hopes his paintings slow the viewer down in the way they consider and engage with these images, he added.

Regional Galleries punching above their weight

Having lived overseas for many years, Maguire says he has visited many regional and metropolitan Galleries. ‘When I was in Germany 30 years ago, in the mid-1980s, the regional cities had amazing exhibitions and collections that could be looked at with great scope and depth, and that wasn’t happening in Australia back then.

‘But Australian regional Galleries are doing it now. There is a gap there to be filled as our state galleries are doing more ambitious international shows. Hopefully people are willing to travel and catch these regional shows, because they are really considered today,’ he concluded.

Morton said: ‘Regional Galleries are undoubtedly under-recognised for the role they play in the community. Our collection is a resource; a cultural, educational and inspirational one. It belongs to the people of Newcastle; we are simply the custodians of it. A huge amount of work is constantly happening behind the scenes to nurture and develop this collection. That is our remit.

‘It's our exhibitions, however, that are the driving force in what we do. Our exhibitions inspire the audience programs we present, they support the professional development of artists, and contribute to the growth and knowledge of our collection works,’ she said.

Newcastle Art Gallery has one of the most significant collections in Australia with 6,300+ works, including the works of Tim Maguire.

Showing alongside his survey is an exhibition drawn from the Gallery’s holdings Painting Memory – a kind of blockbuster shopping list of Australian art history. The pairing is a great combination for a Newcastle visit.  

Morton concluded: ‘We are ambitious, we're a small team and we always aspire to punch above our weight.’

Everything Changes: Tim Maguire 2002 - 2017
Newcastle Art Gallery
18 November 2017 – 18 February 2018
Free entry