Gnarly eucalyptus trees often seen on a well-travelled stretch of road near the town Buangor, in country Victoria, was the starting point for Tim McMonagle’s latest exhibition. Buangor is a collection of five oil-on-linen paintings, painted on McMonagle’s preferred square format.
Each painting consists of one tree in a uniquely contorted form with hints of vitality depicted in the occasional sprouting green leaf. The colours are mostly muted browns, pale blues and greys, mustardy yellows and olive greens. McMonagle added intricate details to his mesmerising trees; hints of vibrant oranges and yellows and texture with brushstrokes and thick paint. An energy is also present, particularly in Pull the Cup2016.
To paint the twisted, mythical old trees, McMonagle relied heavily on his imagination, but also on a soundtrack to get him into the painting process. “It’s the music that got me into the right head space,” he says. “I put this on everyday I painted.” He is talking about the album, At Action Park by Shellac, an album that’s been described as rock, post-hardcore and punk. The influence of the music is evident in the dynamic and somber elements of the paintings. To expand on this, McMonagle borrowed song titles to name his paintings.
Other Worlds, is a collection of landscape paintings that embody the subtleties of the natural world; the changing light and weather, the evolving colours and the textural intricacies of the environment. But it’s the depth within the landscapes, the movement, and the emotional response that standout.
The landscape that surrounds Tasmanian artist Philip Wolfhagen, has been penetrating his being for a long time. They are triggers for new works, sources of colour and light, and they are a connection to the past and the present. Landscapes, and elements within the landscapes fuel his imagination and solidify a starting point. From here, with the inclusion of classical music, beeswax, and a primary colour palette his evocative and perceptual paintings begin to develop.
The Serpentine Path 2015, a group of three paintings on linen with oil and beeswax, depicts impressions of the undulations in the land. Rocks, shrubs and paths and a never-ending horizon complete the picture. The subdued colours of browns, greys and greens are blended to create contrast, depth and texture all at once. For Wolfhagen, a landscape isn’t about precision and accuracy but rather a representation of the natural world, in which he harnesses the atmosphere, the mood and the light. His paintings are emotive and represent a snapshot of a fleeting moment in nature.
The large scale Other World No.1 2015 draws the viewer into the landscape. The shear size is like a window you could move through. Strong shades of browns and oranges in the foreground are gradually teamed with greys and blues that fade into the distance. The painting commands stillness as the eye moves into the distance. It is as though Wolfhagen’s landscapes urge the viewer to stop and take notice.
Discussion between author and Philip Wolfhagen
I have read that music plays a very important part in your painting process. One of the standout features in your paintings is movement, is it your engagement with the music that enlivens your paintings?
I would say that listening to music keeps me aloof from the act of painting. It is a means to maintaining a separation; it promotes more rational thought processes, and is a caution against too much self awareness. It is possible that the influence of the music translates into movement, if not in the image itself, then certainly in the accumulation of gestures that comprise the image.
Another standout feature is the depth you create in your landscapes. Does the depth represent the deep feelings you have with the natural world and the deep respect for the historical and cultural past?
The illusion of receding space is a vital element in my work because each successive painting is representative of a journey; a never ending reinvention of self. The passage from ones own position to the always shifting vanishing point is inexhaustible in its potential for meaning.
Philip Wolfhagen Other Worlds 1 July-1 August 2015
Karen Woodbury Gallery
Level 1/167 Flinders Lane
This painting by Paul Cezanne caught me by surprise when I saw it. Forms seemed to float and vibrate against each other. Its deep blues sang against the ochre yellow and orange and the beautiful smokey greys of the rocks. It felt so complete and it seemed to speak as one whole symphony.
The balance of the negative spaces against the rock and trees is achieved mainly through the intensity of the blue sky colour against the broader plains. A sense of motion is created at the edges of the forms through the irregular, blocky rendering. The darks seem to indicate deep shadows under the trees and a hint of the unknown, of uncertainty on the steep path ahead. Despite the rocky obstacles there is a vertical thrust upwards from the lower right into the trees that is uplifting, almost exhilarating. The painting is a celebration of being in the natural world. Painted two years before his death, this is the solitary, unified vision of a man who had worked all his life to describe the experience of seeing that which we often pass without a second thought.