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Window on a City

May 17, 2023  ·  3 min read

We are not the first custodians of these walls, in fact we’re new inhabitants to a shell with a deeply rich former life. Housed within the heritage listed 113-year-old former Scotts Limited and David Jones building, the inside shell has changed but the relationship to the street and landscape has not.

Paul Maher’s Window on a City exhibition housed at the STRAITJACKET gallery is a must until the 21st of May. Biased? Perhaps. See oil paintings of QT Newcastle’s Jana Bar and Clock Suite in this exhibition.

Windows, whether looking through them to view your freshly mowed grass in the backyard, on a train wishing the trip from Sydney to Newcastle away or gazing out on a Friday afternoon, pondering over your weekend plans and counting down the hours to clock off… whichever window you peer out to, they let the outside world in. Chris Tucker, Academic in Architecture at University of Newcastle says windows bring “light and air, but by posing the inside and outside together in the same scene, they also weave our different lives together from the comfort of a place we know well.”

In our formidable years the saying “don’t judge, we don’t know what others lives are like behind closed doors” still rings in the ear as if the cassette player was on repeat (without the manual rewind, of course). We see the outside perspective; the outside image they choose to project, long lunches, holidays and nights of romance. Surely we are all guilty of projecting this image… but in reality, does the everyday look like this? Absolutely not. “Looking on to a window is an entirely different way of being in the world compare with looking into one”, says Tucker.

All of Paul’s paintings in this exhibition showcase the Newcastle coastline with waves crashing against the sandy shore as it has for years. The original custodians of this building looked onto those same waves and unobstructed view of the city’s harbour, the near and far within the window have not changed.

In the oil canvas of Jana Bar we see Hunter street, trees which certainly pre date our existence and parked cars. On the inside of the frame there’s a Jana server waiting the empty tables, clearing the remains of a table that two possibly sat at for a brunch. “We are prompted to delve into our imaginations and consider the histories, complexities, and mundanities of the lives lived behind the frame – the figures obscured from the canvas,” says Belle Beasley, on behalf of artist Paul Maher.

The ever powerful window showcases a distance from the near and far. It acts as a barrier to keep the inside safe from the outside, it’s act as a boundary, a safe and comfortable place to tell stories. Paul juxtaposes the outside world to the inside world, as much as one loves to explore the outside the near is where we often feel safest.

Paul Maher’s work at the STRAITJACKET gallery is one not to be missed. Find out more about how you can meet Paul and view his work here.

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