The Painters in The Painting

Euan Macleod, Maitland - John and Leo, 2006

In his view across the Hunter River, Maitland – John and Leo (2006), Euan Macleod captures the energy of a gathering storm about to unleash its fury on two fellow artists painting the same view. Macleod paints the moment with an expressionistic spontaneity, using his palette knife and brush to capture the sky darkening over the town of Maitland in swathes of grey and white.

John and Leo, possibly the artists Leo Robba and John Walker, are shown in the act of creating their own views of Maitland as they paint in the open air – or ‘en plein air’ – on a table and on the ground. Their paintings, Between the trees (2006) and On the bank (2006) are also in the collection of Maitland Regional Art Gallery. In Between the trees, Leo Robba has painted the same thunderhead clouds over the river from a slightly different perspective.

Macleod is a New Zealand-born artist who has been painting in Australia since the 1980s. He won the Archibald portrait prize for his work, Self portrait/ head like a hole, in 1999. Macleod principally paints figures in landscapes, sometimes working outdoors and reacting directly to what he sees in front of him. He humanises these landscapes with mythic figures that row boats or stride purposefully. Macleod has referred to these figures as ‘the painter in the painting’, meaning they capture or express an element of his consciousness. In this work, however, the figures are literally painters – capturing the scene before the first raindrops fall.