The Left Bank Gallery isn’t exactly a newcomer in the Gold Coast cultural scene. The business has operated within the field for years but it hasn’t been until recently that they have brought a program of interesting exhibitions to the Gold Coast art calendar. The current John Maitland exhibition ‘Watergardens’ is exactly that.
John Maitland is an English born artist who has resided in Australia for years already. Like so many in the multicultural, contemporary Australia, he carries his journey with him and is reflected in his work.
For me, looking at John Maitland’s work is like sending one part of myself back in time while keeping another firmly on here and now. There are numerous references to the early days of modern art with some of the subject matter, brush stroke, even the way the canvas is treated. Then again, you will find the bright colours of Australia, the Aboriginal people and the sense of a 21st century story.
John Maitland, the artist, comes from a very honest, mature place. He started as an engineer and the idea of becoming a full-time artist took years to come into fruition. He had become confident in his style and aspirations before he took his art beyond a hobby or simply a personal interest. Maybe this is why his work comes across very unapologetic yet soothingly confident and appropriately proud.
“I want to get underneath the visible. I want to depict the essence of my subject matter.” John described. It is not just the artist who looks underneath the surface though, the viewer is invited there as well. And when the viewer does that, they will follow the personal and artistic journey of the painter as well.
“I come from northeast England to this sudden explosion of vibrant colour [in Australia] and it left me wondering how I do I paint these colours? It took me three, four years to figure that out.”
And as is blatantly obvious in his studio in Elanora, his body of work paints a much larger picture than that of an Aboriginal child, a garden or an English engineer in the outback. For another European living in Australia, I recognized that wonder of light and colour that is so striking to someone who wasn’t born to it.
‘Watergardens’ is a rare opportunity for the Gold Coast to see his art. This nationally and internationally successful artist exhibits all around Australia and Europe but as luck and life would have it, not here in his hometown. Then again, off the back of this exhibition and collaboration with The Left Bank gallery, new doors and opportunities might have been open even for next year. Or so we have heard. ‘Watergardens’ ends Friday 22 September.