Julian Meagher’s works evoke a sense of the sublime, capturing ephemeral and ever-changing moments that sit between reality and comprehension. Pared down and minimal, his oil paintings act as a mirror into the artist’s introspections and ruminations on the world and its condition. Paintings that appear to be landscapes at first glance unravel as self-portraits, capturing Meagher’s feelings towards them, portraits of his family melt into fields of colour and abstract landscapes; both encapsulating his larger hopes for nature, his family and the future. Neither one nor the other, Meagher’s paintings collapse the divide between genres.
This ambiguity is at the forefront of The small hours, Meagher’s solo exhibition in Sydney after three years. A suite of new works, the show debuts some of the largest paintings the artist has created. Swathes of pinks glow at a horizon, suggesting the early hours of dawn and of renewed hope, departing from Meagher’s blues and depiction of dusk.
Meagher’s thick vertical gestures and bands of colour – now regarded as the artist’s signature technique – are more visible than ever, carving out a space in alluded landscapes that underscores liminality, and all the in-between matter that connects us to everything and everyone.
A key piece in The small hours is an intimate and dreamy painting of Meagher’s infant daughter, eyes closed with a band of light from the new dawn shining through. In recent years, the artist 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.