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Marie Hagerty: The Real Thing

Australian Art Collector, Issue 43 January - March 2008

Sasha Grishin

Canberra Museum and Gallery, Canberra

Until 20 January 2008 

Marie Hagerty over the past few years has established and refined her pictorial language to arrive at a form which is peculiarly her own.  She is a young artist in her early 40s whose most recent work is certainly her best. 

Her art has a strong sense of design and thrives on ambiguity - a sensuousness with reference to anatomical forms is contrasted with the austerity of abstraction. The exactingly conveyed impression of three-dimensionality is juxtaposed with two dimensional patterning and a very flattened picture space. While an implied compositional dynamism is contrasted with a quiet static armature and there is also a constant tension created between the figurative and the abstract.

Hagerty notes: "My abstract works rely heavily on the figure, conjuring up images of moving or turning: like posing, twisting, folding or stretching. I have had the same palette for awhile. I can't stop myself from having blacks and whites. I also like to use the soft against the hard, going back to formal qualities. Edges are really important to me.....See the white line that forms around them, giving the illusion of being collaged. I like the layering."

In her art she works within a strong, but idiosyncratically selected tradition of art history with references to the high modernism of Georges Braque and Fernand Leger and the Constructivism of Rodchenko, Stepanova and Popova and their Bauhaus followers. In each instance she has translated these sources into her own personal artistic idiom. It is as if she is interested in moments when art traditions turn on themselves and she is fascinated and surprised by what is discovered. The sense of interlocking anthropomorphic elements and a cool and reserved palette makes for a strange stage-like space in which these elements perform.

It is only over the last few years that Hagerty has been attracting serious national attention, especially when she was awarded the National Gallery of Victoria's John McCaughey Memorial Prize in 2004 and the Conrad Jupiter's Art Prize in 2005. This strong and visually stunning exhibition, curated by Peter Haynes, is by a Canberra artist who is making her mark on the national art scene.

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