14. TIM MAGUIRE
For some time now, painting and printmaking have played off each other in my work. Frustrations in one area are often solved through investigations in the other … drawing from experience of the processes involved in printmaking – for example, often helps me think again about how I might make a painting, and vice versa. So it’s not surprising that I’m working intensively right now with printmaking. My preoccupation with digital printing, specifically, springs from efforts to define the distinction between randomness and what is controllable.1
Tim Maguire’s Falling Snow III 2007 is poised precariously on the threshold of stillness and movement. It is a fantastically panoramic composition split over five panels and digitally printed on canvas. Thrusted to the foreground is a mottled screen of technicolour snow that obscures a shadowy wood in the background. The image has a clear photographic register, crated by a frontal flash that bleaches colour, flattens the planes, and generates a dramatic contrast of light and darkness. Dreamlike hues of magenta, cyan, emerald green and crisp white mimic the CMYK colour palette used for commercial printing.2 When viewed from afar, the snowscape coheres into an almost abstract spectacle of refracted light and scattered effervescent forms.
One may argue Maguire is interested in light rather than painting. To study light involves multidisciplinary experimentation with pigment-based imagery, whether it be video work, painting, lightbox photography, or print. In doing so, the materiality of painting and printmaking become charged sites of enquiry. Maguire explores what painting can – while beholden to traditional oil and canvas – precisely represent, and how a hybridisation with printmaking processes may mutually embolden these art forms. He de-mythologises painting as much as he doubles down on its specificity: Maguire does not differentiate between the two mediums as they coexist within his oeuvre. This intersection of the digital and the painterly – so well expressed in Falling Snow III – delivers the artist closer to encapsulating light’s sheer essence.
Digital technology has yielded a host of tools for Maguire to manipulate his imagery and build a visual lexicon characterised by magnification, colour separation, copying, cropping, and changes in resolution. Maguire sources inspiration for his work by appropriating imagery from an economy of photographic and televisual media. We are exposed to thousands of digital photos every day; they saturate contemporary culture, circulated at dizzying speeds. The screen-like surface of Maguire’s photorealist pictures immediately draws us in, capturing and exploiting this digital aesthetic. Here the beholder sees an incredibly rich yet delicate facture, executed with diaphanous glazes of pigment that accumulate into a luminous glow. Although digital images seldom require much of our attention, we are asked to slowly look at Maguire’s pictures in order to make sense of their nuanced surface and bewildering compositions.
In another conversation with Jonathan Watkins, Maguire summarised his process:
Taking a small detail of a reproduction … I’d crop it … [magnify it] hundreds of times ... This degeneration is very important to me. It’s another step in the breakdown that occurs as the three-dimensional world is translated in to two dimensions. Each step involves a flattening of the image. Originally someone else painted the flowers, probably from a preliminary sketch. The painting was photographed at some time, the photograph was reproduced, published, and then I start to work on it.3
1. Maguire, T. & Watkins, J., ‘Mixing Numbers; Tim Maguire in Conversation with Jonathan Watkins,’ 2008 [accessed October 2023]: https://tim-maguire.com/essays/
2. The current lot is printed by master printer and collaborator Franck Bordas
3. Watkins, J., ‘What is it “as it really is”?’ in Murray Cree, L. (ed.), Tim Maguire, Piper Press, Sydney, 2007, p.72
Tim Marvin is an emerging curator and art historian based in Sydney. He has a Bachelor of Art Theory (Honours, First Class) from the University of New South Wales, and currently holds the position of gallery registrar at Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney.