Marian Maguire is a Christchurch based artist who has been working in the arts for over thirty-five years as a master lithographer, painter, printmaker and gallery director.
She first came into contact with printmaking at high school where her teacher was a printmaker introducing her to a range of different techniques. While studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Ilam School of Art, University of Canterbury she shifted from her initial interest in sculpture to printmaking inspired by the direction and vision of tutor Barry Cleavin who ran the printmaking department at the time. The first time she was introduced to lithography she immediately fell in love with everything about it; the feel and the smell of the stone, the responsiveness of the gesture of her hand to the stone and the sensitivity to tonal range that was much easier to achieve naturally than in other mediums. Lithography complimented her drawing practice, where she would spend several hours a week working on charcoal drawings.
In her final year at art school, Barry Cleavin organised for Maguire to work with Ralph Hotere on a series prints, believing she would be good at collaborative work and supporting the idea of printmakers working with other artists. The collaboration was indeed a success, resulting in an ongoing working relationship spanning twenty-four years. Collaborating with a handful of other artists, including Phillipa Blair, and slowly building up her own print studio with then partner Stephen Gleeson, Maguire decided to apply to the Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Albuquerque New Mexico where she honed her technical and professional printmaking skills.
The following year in 1987 she established the print studio Limeworks, where she worked on collaborative printmaking projects with established New Zealand artists including Dick Frizzell, Fatu Feu’u, Bill Culbert, John Reynolds and Euan Macleod. Preferring to work repeatedly with artists who she has built good rapport with, she approached each project by first studying the artist’s process, analysing their work both technically and visually to gain an understanding of how they constructed their image from the initial concept through to the final work. By understanding their process, she would then adapt the chosen printmaking medium to fit how the artist approached their medium, rather than the other way around. She had the privilege of visiting artists in their studios where she could see work in progress and was able to talk to them about the ideas relating to their imagery. Equally valuable in this approach was to gain an insight into how the artist’s lifestyle was imbued in how they created their work.
Throughout her time as a master printer, she has been equally committed to pursuing her own printmaking practice, including drawing and painting, exhibiting regularly at home and abroad. From the late nineties Maguire started to incorporate imagery into her work inspired by the narrative and aesthetic characteristics of Greek vases. Divine heroes from Greek mythology are depicted in juxtaposition with mythical creatures and gods from Māori mythology, such as Maui wrestling a lion and Herakles wrestling a taniwha. This led to several bodies of work where Greek myths and figures were transplanted into the New Zealand’s colonial past commenting directly on these contested histories.
In the series The Odyssey of Captain Cook (2005) Maguire examines the first encounter between two cultures, directly referencing historical drawings and paintings from the colonial era and injecting her signature silhouetted figures from Greek vase paintings into the frame. Ambiguity shrouds the interactions between these figures and characters from our local history. As they come face-to-face with each other it is uncertain whether their exchange is friendly and welcoming or with hostility and in defence. In another series, The Labours of Herakles (2008), Herakles is represented carrying out various colonial tasks such as signing the treaty, clearing land and making boundaries. In Titokowaru’s Dilemma (2011) Socrates poses questions that address the ethical issues of colonisation in light of the atrocities of the land wars in the late 1860s, with Mt. Taranaki standing luminous in the background. These etchings replicate the feel of old-fashioned black and white photographs used by colonisers to document history, giving a sense of going back in time. For Maguire etching and lithography provide the perfect aesthetic for depicting black-figure Greek vase painting, as well as being the mediums that would have been used to initially document these voyages and clashes of civilisations.
Constructing these images takes extensive research, reading extensively to build up the metaphorical layers and symbols to create conceptually complex work. She has a variety of processes preferring to keep it fluid so as to keep the work organic. Sometimes she will formulate an image or a series in her head, where it will stay for several months before she starts drawing on stone. Through the drawing process she will continue to read and research, possibly altering them as she goes. At other times she will make the connections more intuitively, letting the connections emerge while she’s making the work. Colour is always printed after the black, giving herself time, sometimes months, to develop her thinking further around the image and the emotions associated with each colour. She observes that each work takes on a life of its own once they are exhibited, being read differently in relation to the rest of the collection they are exhibited with and by the viewer.
Maguire is currently the co-director of PG gallery192 with artist and curator Nigel Buxton, where they represent New Zealand artists working in a variety of mediums. Currently on show is a selection of Ralph Hotere lithographs printed by Maguire between 1989-2008. The works will be on show from 11 May until 4 June at 192 Bealey Avenue, Christchurch.
Tamarind institute of Lithography: