I met Norma McAuley in 1986 and came to know her well . I was fortunate to visit the McAuley home in Marsh Street, New Town on many occasions. Norma came to the opening of my first exhibition of paintings in 1994 and purchased a painting. She said to me at the exhibition referring to my paintings “Luke, it is a new voice” I later spoke with her about the idea of me making paintings from reading her late husbands poems. She was enthusiastic but explained the complexities of copyright, I was too young and the idea diluted.
I have always kept a copy of James McAuley poems in my studio and over the years often referred to his poems for inspiration particularly for titles of my paintings.
Serendipitously I met James McAuley’s daughter, Kate in 2016. We chatted enthusiastically over McAuley memories and again the idea of an exhibition related to McAuley poems was discussed. I followed through this time by inviting Kate and her brother Phil to my studio to discuss the possibility further, agreement was reached.
I have chosen to paint the last eleven poems written by James, a series entitled “Time Given”. He wrote these poems at the age that I am now. They are elegant, simple poems embued with a deep understanding of life and the process of dying.
James died at the age of 59 in October 1976, the book of poems was finished on Christmas Day of the same year. 230 copies were printed and copy number 100 is in my possession.
This exhibition coincides with 100 years since the birth of James McAuley
Luke Wagner, Hobart, October 2017
Luke Wagner’s restless and even relentless experimentation with his art practice continues in Under My Breath: Painting from the Domain. Wagner is an artist who works hard, questions himself and pushes through his barriers to uncover new ways to make a mark on canvas.
His art alters significantly from showing to showing and his latest body of work is quite a step away from the white and foggy mystery world portrayed in earlier exhibitions. Here is a land of muted pastels and soft focus that still has Wagner’s characteristic intensity: paint applied with near-nervous force and images filled with compelling energy and a kind of controlled tension.
Wagner isolates one shimmering fragment and explores it, teasing out the possibilities of what he’s seen and painting a memory rather than an actual place.
The effect is amplified by the sheer volume of images – Wagner has been busy, but the result is a feeling of striding through a landscape and recalling it.
Wagner is heading towards a self-imposed goal of understanding what it is that makes him paint. His images are calm but not still, and the notion that Wagner is symbolically capturing his intellectual journey as an artist seems possible.
There is beauty but also a desire to reach for something beyond making a soothing image, and it’s this rich but subtle quality that gives this body of work a singular depth.