Paul Maher’s urban coastal landscapes rarely contain people, yet their marks are everywhere across his compositions. ‘You can tell a lot about a place by the traces people leave behind,’ he explains. ‘The informal paths, the obstacles, the place where vegetation has been untouched and where it is neatly groomed,’ he says. And it’s these echoes of human existence that intrigue him most.
In Paul’s paintings, the shapes of solitary buildings are reflected in still bodies of water, treetops shimmer in the ripples of the tide, a boat is docked at a small pier. His scenes all quiver with the promise of human life that never quite materialises. His measured, delicate brushstrokes mediate these tranquil settings to his canvas, in a perfectly restrained pastel palette. He is inspired by his contemporaries, Australian landscape painters like Peter Gardiner, Tom Carment and Junko Hagiwara.
Paul’s home studio in the heritage suburb of Hamilton East, Newcastle is perfectly placed to observe those secluded outdoor spaces where human activity meets the natural world. A north-facing wall of glass louvres provides perfect painting light and ventilation, as well as a view to the leafy backyard. The adjacent garage doubles as a workroom, were he stretched canvases and makes frames for his finished paintings.
Paul balances time in his studio with a long career in urban design, which he has been practising for 17 years. His landscapes are composed from the viewpoint of an observant bystander, and you can see evidence of his professional expertise in spatial planning trickle into his paintings. He seeks out local scenes where there is a combination of built-form and natural environment, illuminating examples of harmony between the architecture of the natural world, and the humanness of urban design.
Retrofitted with the lens of lockdown, Paul admits there is a wilderness to the paintings that he hadn’t quite seen before. ‘The recent restrictions have made my paintings look like windows to the wild, outside world we haven’t been able to visit,’ he muses. The last few weeks of isolation have allowed him to frame and prepare the pieces for his show down to the water, opening at Saint Cloche on May 27th!
Virtually tour Paul’s exhibition at Saint Cloche from Wednesday 27th May from 6pm. You can find more details (including gallery appointment bookings) here.