Karl Maughan - The Language of Flowers

Written by Sarah Catherall

For an artist who is renowned for painting splendid rhododendrons and gardens exploding with colour, Karl Maughan knows surprisingly little about flowers and plants. In fact, the Auckland home he shares with his partner, novelist Emily Perkins, and three children, is almost colourless. Green natives are dotted about, amid a cluster of sunflowers and cornflowers. “But it’s a very green garden,” he says.


Maughan is one of our most prolific artists who hasn’t deviated from the flowers and gardens he has become renowned for, which he has been painting for almost 25 years since he graduated from art school.


His surrealist fantasy landscapes grace the walls of galleries in New Zealand and overseas, and they have increased in value over the years, now fetching more than $55,000 for large ones that fill walls.


His newest work is on show at Wellington’s Page Blackie Gallery. Maughan is a towering 1.9 metres (6ft 3in) tall and wearing casual shorts and a comfortable T-shirt when we meet. He wouldn’t look out of place in a garden, although you would expect to see him with a hoe in his hand rather than a paint brush. However, when he paints, he works off photographs of gardens.


That wasn’t always the case. Until he shifted to London in the early 1990s, Maughan tried to paint in gardens, but the inclement weather and conditions forced him to his East End studio, and he is more comfortable painting inside today.


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February 2, 2012
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