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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Red tanks



Tim Maguire

United Kingdom, Australia

1958 -


In Tim Maguire's tank paintings the artist comes to terms with both abstraction and the Australian landscape. The earliest tank paintings date from 1986 and are a more literal close view of a corrugated iron tank filling most of the painting, but with landscape showing at the top, bottom and sides of the tank. For Maguire they were a way to locate your self in the landscape and to depict an Australian subject matter and yet to break away from both the established traditions and modernist innovations dominating landscape painting in Australia. The tank in these works is a simplified and yet quite surreal form, a vernacular object depicted with the scale and presence of a history painting and the expected importance of subject matter this implies. Rather than a homage to the tank, the reduced and dominant form seems eerie and unexplained.

When Maguire returned to painting tanks in 1990 the tanks themselves expanded to fill the canvas, with the only other visible element being that light that shines from behind through the gaps between the tanks. These paintings are highly abstracted, retaining a minimum of representation in the curve of the tanks and the corrugations of the iron. The white light that divides the canvas into three sections recalls the light of Barnett Newman's zip paintings, undoubtedly an intentional reference in these works and the subsequent canal paintings series. Maguire pulls back from the complete abstraction of Newman - Newman's contrasting coloured lines or zips on another field of colour become here the bright line of the Australian light both defining and abstracting these vernacular forms.


Place where the work was made




Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


199.5 x 367.0 cm stretcher

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Anonymous gift 2012. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program


Not on display

Accession number


Sir John Sulman Prize

- 1991/92

Artist information

Tim Maguire

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales (Editor), Archibald, Wynne Prize and Sulman prize (1991/1992), Sydney, 1992. 87

Edward Colless, Tim Maguire: 1989-1990, Melbourne, 1990, viii, ix (colour illus.). plate no. 2; not paginated

Laura Murray Cree (Editor), Tim Maguire, ‘What is it ‘as it really is’ ? Tim Maguire in conversation with Jonathon Watkins', pg. 36-136, 2007, 64-65 (colour illus.), 66.