Book Review: Richard Maurovic Shaping Life, by Jennifer Palmer and Maggie Watson

A book about artist Richard Maurovic, exploring his works, life, influences and interests, telling of his migrant origins and the accident that changed his life.

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How appropriate that I should be reviewing a book about Richard Maurovic on the International Day for Persons with a Disability. For far from being the usual charity story depicted in the media on this day, or a story about a disabled artist, the vision presented in the new book, Richard Maurovic: Shaping Life by Jennifer Palmer and Maggie Watson is one of an artist first; one of great talent indeed, and someone for whom his disability is but an element in his life – and far from a defining one.

In telling the story of his migrant origins and of the accident that changed Maurovic’s life, but ironically freed him to fully explore the prodigious talent that had shown itself even in childhood, Palmer and Watson have produced a book that transcends the usual art book of images of the artist’s works. The story of Maurovic’s life, his influences and interests is an engaging read on its own but, coupled with the breathtaking selection of Maurovic’s work, as well as comparative selections of the works of influences Jeffrey Smart and David Dallwitz (among others), this book is a sensory feast.

richardmaurovicshapinglife200Maurovic’s love of the geometric is obvious in many of the works chosen for this monograph and many of the works explore the geometric patterns of city skyscapes, striped beach umbrellas and rows of container trucks. In other moments, there are glorious, but almost intimate images of Venice canals that bring to mind the French Impressionists. But what sets his work alight and, I believe, transcends his influences, is his love affair with light. Even when produced in works such as the monochromatic and gloomy Restaurant Chef, light and shadow creates an atmosphere that serves to draw the viewer into eye and mind’s view of the artist.

Some of the works are confronting, such as super realistic depictions of meat, while others are frivolous, like the tray of Balfour’s frog cakes and iced donuts or the bowl of shiny Smarties. In others, Maurovic’s works take us to a view of the familiar from angles that would be impossible for most of us to see, and then to others that are just plain interesting, such as the view of Adelaide Oval from behind the picket boundary fence.

Published on beautiful, weighty stock and hard bound, Wakefield Press have done justice to this important work by Palmer and Watson. More than an addition to a collection of art books or being relegated to the coffee table as a decorating device, this a book any art lover will want to go back to over and over.  Do I hear Christmas gift anyone?

Published to celebrate the twenty years since Maurovic’s first solo exhibition, this monograph features portraits of the mundane, the intimate and the unremarked, such as his paintings of his first childhood love, transport. It takes us to sun drenched locations in Europe and back home, and it is that ‘back home’ that grabbed me because much of Maurovic’s work is a love letter to South Australia and all that we take pride in. Which brings me to my only criticism: the painting featured on the cover is striking and international in its setting, as befits the now internationally known Maurovic, but it belies the life inside the cover and fails to hint at the very love letter that inspired this lapsed artist to open her art box again.

Reviewed by Monica Leahy

Rating out of 10:  9

Published by: Wakefield Press
Release Date: November 2016
RRP: $49.95 hardcover

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