PROFILE: JU­LIAN MEAGHER Through the touch of this gifted Syd­ney artist, some of life’s most or­di­nary el­e­ments be­come ex­tra­or­di­nary works of art

Through the touch of this gifted Syd­ney artist, some of life’s most or­di­nary el­e­ments be­come ex­tra­or­di­nary works of art.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Contents - FREYA HER­RING MICHAEL WEE By Pho­tographed by VL

The no­tion of the ev­ery­day has oc­cu­pied the minds of artists since the dawn of time — Egyp­tians de­pict­ing the hunt; Ver­meer’s milk­maid at work; van Gogh’s bed­room. And so it goes, all the way to Mar­cel Duchamp’s con­cep­tion of the self-con­scious Ready­made — or­di­nary ob­jects passed off as art — in 1913. Cut to 2018, and Syd­ney artist Ju­lian Meagher is paint­ing goon bags, the foil bag in­side a box of wine, out of his Mar­rickville stu­dio. “I’m not afraid of el­e­vat­ing the ab­surd — I think artists have a key

role in do­ing that,” says Meagher. “And I love goon bags; they’re ac­tu­ally beau­ti­ful ob­jects to paint. Once you start think­ing about them as sculp­ture — their weight­less­ness but at the same time the heav­i­ness to them — they are re­ally beau­ti­ful shapes.” For him, the or­di­nary is any­thing but. “That’s the beauty of art,” he says. “Mak­ing peo­ple see the poetry of the ev­ery­day.” Meagher’s work re­ally is po­etic. Thin­ning out oil paint with medium, his por­traits of peo­ple and ob­jects set against clear, white noth­ing­ness ap­pear al­most lu­mi­nous, with the colours glow­ing against the pale. “Be­cause I paint in such a translu­cent style, the sur­face of what I paint is re­ally im­por­tant,” says the two-time Archibald Prize fi­nal­ist. “And so I try to paint wa­ter and glass and skin, chang­ing these func­tional ob­jects into non-func­tional ob­jects of de­sire.” Un­til 11 years ago, Meagher was a med­i­cal doc­tor. But he gave it all up to fo­cus on art, which he had loved since child­hood. “I’m mo­ti­vated by a love of paint, not cash,” he says. He has just com­pleted a com­mis­sion to cre­ate 10 orig­i­nal paint­ings for the newly re­fit­ted re­sort, The By­ron at By­ron, each de­pict­ing a na­tive Aus­tralian plant, from banksias and kan­ga­roo paws, to wat­tle flow­ers and gum­nuts. “I’m in­ter­ested in why things be­come so sym­bolic,” says Meagher. “I lean to­wards sym­bolic ob­jects — the goon bag, the VB can, Aus­tralian na­tive flow­ers — to make us think about why we re­vere these ob­jects and are at the same time re­pelled by them.” Al­though he never wants to come across as di­dac­tic, Meagher ac­knowl­edges the po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of por­tray­ing Aus­traliana. “I’m a priv­i­leged white Aus­tralian male artist, and I’m still try­ing to rec­on­cile my place in this coun­try,” he says. “My Abo­rig­i­nal friends have taught me a lot. You don’t have to make peo­ple think about things in an ag­gres­sive way; it can be done as a start­ing point for di­a­logue. “I love very quiet paint­ings that aren’t loud in your house; that are quite serene. And for me that is a lovely place to get taken to when you’re stand­ing in front of a paint­ing. You can feel that med­i­ta­tive process that the artist went through.” De­spite his ca­reer in medicine, Meagher’s heart was al­ways in­side a tube of paint. “Be­ing cre­ative isn’t an easy, lin­ear, straight road; it has its prob­lems,” he says. “But if you can eke out an ex­is­tence do­ing it, it’s magic.” Visit ju­lian­meagher.com. au. His next show looks to land­scape, open­ing at Bris­bane’s Ed­wina Cor­lette Gallery this Septem­ber; ed­wina­cor­lette.com. Ex­pe­ri­ence his work now at The By­ron at By­ron; the­by­ronat­by­ron.com.au

Artist Ju­lian Meagher with his works, in­clud­ing two large paint­ings from his In­let series cre­ated dur­ing his res­i­dency on Bithry In­let in Mi­mosa Rocks Na­tional Park, NSW. Na­tive Ti­tle Series (2017) is pic­tured above.

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