I’ve never met karl maughan but I chaired a session his wife the writer emily perkins spoke at once. She might have thought I was a husband stalker because I talked a lot about karl maughan at lunch and hardly anything about emily perkins. I loved her first book of short stories not her real name which sat up right and said hello the way good stories should. Now that I think of it I can’t find my copy maybe I lent it to you.
It looks like karl would be a great guy to lunch with perhaps drink a nice cold beer. He seems friendly for a painter of course I know painters can be all shapes sizes etceteras but if you didn’t know he painted you would not guess. He wears trainers jeans t-shirt could be hallensteins sometimes even a hoodie. He hooks his thumbs in his jean pockets when he stands proud in front of his large beautiful paintings.
There are a lot of karl maughan paintings now it’s over twenty years since he was at art school. He makes the same painting again and again. This is not boring as he always finds a new way to paint the same garden and this is why a walk around a karl maughan painting is something you should do.
One glorious saturday morning at the milford gallery in dunedin the dealer showed me his backroom with dozens of karl maughan paintings small ones large ones against the wall on the wall and suspended from the ceiling in metal storage racks designed to show large canvases. I realised I would never buy a karl maughan painting as the best of them are 64,000 plus gst & I would need a new house to show them. I only now have one wall big enough in the bedroom and then I would be sleeping with a nightmare on canvas 2 metres squared.
The garden in karl maughan’s painting terrifies me but I can’t take my eyes away. There’s a worn dirt path in the middle that leads from the bottom of the painting to the top. You can always see blue sky and a soft thread like a thin string cloud of white light but never sun or moon so is it early morning or twilight I don’t know. You cannot get out to the sky as rows of fat round flowers shrubs and conical trees hem the path on both sides and make a plant wall across the whole painting.
These are english plants hyacinth hydrangea cypress trees karl maughan knows more about them than I do his mother taught botany and when he was a boy she took him to plant nurseries all over the manawatu. The painting remembers flowers over and over and over and over. Up close in galleries or in google image petals purple yellow red open wide I think they might swallow me whole like the tulips in sylvia plath’s poem. When I finally drink beer with karl maughan my first question will be karl karl karl karl karl karl karl?