by James Mack
(The Wairarapa Gallery Newsletter Dec 98-Jan99. ISSN1173-6224)
Marianne Muggeridge is a superb figurative painter. A really tough figurative painter..like all good art, her paintings are deep on many levels. They challenge your vision, your perception and your emotions. She knows and conveys anatomy and the way the human figure reacts to gravity in space. There are few painters around who can look at the human condition , in relation to the land, with the intestinal fortitude that Muggeridge does.
People who see these pictures will know what they are looking at. They will think in terms of realism. But that word does Muggeridge a great disservice. The paintings and prints are not only saying,"This is what I see..", they're saying, "This is what I know and feel about the people I'm looking at." The personality she gives to her human sitters she also gives to her landscape subjects.
Muggeridge's paintings are not toally realistic - they've got a bite to them which is strong and grunty. It's to do with two things. One is magnificent control of paint. In these pictures are all the traditional oil painting techniques stretched - and stretched.
In the background to the nude Aimée, for example, she's used boiled linseed to enhance the satin sheen. But if it was just that, it wouldn't work. What the work has become is a really tight structural painting with the second component part, at which she is breathtaking: the control of space.
Too often people get into the difficutlies of ensuring that landscape retreats to the horizon, so that the space of the dome of the sky rides over the top of it. Muggeridge avoids this trap. You can feel the space, the ambient weather, the movement of clouds - all those amazing things.
The portrait, Aimée, is a work in which there is a beautiful mixture of media controls. The way the light plays on her two dimensional surface to render and create the three dimensional is glorious. The plane of the bed, on which the two subjects sit, with a leg advancing toward you - all these foreshortening things which more often that not fall apart. In this picture those space/plane things all work fantastically. You felt the bed was coming forward in space to you, even though it was amputated by the picture edge.
Then you had the beautiful subtleties of two weighty masses sitting on foam rubber covered with red fabric, and then the elements the painter has played with, such as the red skirt against the red mattress, the green tights against the red, the evident knowledge of the human body in conditions of gravity.
All this sat in a landscape in which she had rendered Mt. Taranaki as few have done since Heaphy. I doubt if there has been anyone in between who has given this mountain its absolute, total and raw volcanic thrust out of a 1998 manicured and munched green farmland.
It's a landscape in which people have created agricultural havoc around the mountain and the mountain has retained the power. Once again Muggeridge's mastery of knowing who and what she is as a maker of images is shown.
In Muggeridge's silkscreen prints, such as From Normanby Road, you saw that she knows how silkscreen works. Where she overlays with ink which is lustrous or matt, the relationships of all those things and the way she builds them ensure magnificent structural orchestration of the total picture.
Muggeridge deserves to be in public collections in a big way. They should have a look at this painter. She's good. She is a stunning painter.
In the painting of the face on Nina in Aimée and Nina, with the effect of light coming at it from two directions, the fundamental bone structure and the skin tautness was preserved along with the relationship of the person who is looking at Muggeridge as she painted them. Nina is placed before a curtain of gauze which abstracts the landscape behind and brings it subtly forward into another plane and relationship with the viewer.
Muggeridge's Blue Aimée sits on a window-sill in front of a window outside of which there is a corrugated iron roof. In the window is reflected a door which is almost where the viewer stands. In the background is Taranki in a way it couldn't be, but which the picture totally convinces us it is. The painting is of a night scene with inner light of such strength to light the model that anything beyond the window would be dark and swallowed by the space.
This is where you see an artist of incredible skill who has subtly swayed us into believing what she wants to show us.
In Blue Aimée there was a starkness given to the figure by the artificial light. And once again the painter had done incredible things with reflected highlights. Light enters from one side, the reflected highlights off the flaxen hair of the model are thrown back onto the face. Often, when people try this they can't control the anatomy. Muggeridge is totally on top of it, has it sorted out and sussed it everywhere in every way. It was wonderful to look at this painting and know that even though the edge of the picture plane cuts off the legs, they are advancing in space. Many paintings of this kind invariabley don't show hands or legs or feet because the artist can't do them. Muggeridge can, really well and it all comes down to absolute mastery and control of paint.
The paintings are great, Muggeridge's silkscreens are knock-outs.
Anybody who is interested in collection in any way ought to visit the Athene Gallery where some have been retained in stock along with some of the paintings.
The several silk screens in the show included one titled from Northcote Point, Auckland . It is worth noting that the number of separate screens that went into this work would have numbered around forty. The ability to think forty separate bits in isolation capable of making a whole is indicative of someone who really knows what they are about.
The Northcote print reflected nothing in comparison to the works which make one suspect Muggeridge of having a spiritual affair with Mt. Taranaki. Taranaki is a pretty ominous presence. These pictures say that wonderful thing about love and hate and hate and love...the mountain is a pervasive presence in Muggeridge's life and art.
While I don't dislike the Northcote piece, or her other cityscapes, I don't like them as much as her other works. Still, her technical virtuosity is amazing. There is a flower print of hers, with colour that sings coloratura-high brightness and very deep darkness.
Roger Morris, who is Marianne Muggeridge's partner, has obviously in recent times had a vasectomy. Anyone who received an invitation to the Athene show ought to have been flocking here. My response to Roger was that its bigger than I thought it was at every level, and as someone who has just gone through a bit of surgery in the genital area, I can affirm that it hurts - it really hurts. Morris's vasectomy painting says some good things in paint in a really different way to Muggeridge - his is an extremely butch picture.
Then there was a small monoprint self-portrait by Morris which I understand was done on silver foil. This had the same brooding intensity as the vasectomy work. It was deeply troubling to me, the kind of picture which is difficult to engage with because the engagement tells you a lot of things about your own insecurities. Its good art happening in that way - really intense, manic,and magic.
This was another show of quality work from Taranaki with which we have been blessed as it comes from that province to Greytown.