‘Jason Martin: Meta physical’ at STPI
British artist Jason Martin's solo exhibition Meta physical (23 March–4 May 2019) at STPI in Singapore was the result of his residency at the Institute, during which he experimented with the techniques of embossed relief, paper pulp painting, and paper casting. Most works in the exhibition are monochromatic—black, white, red, neon green, and blue—as is characteristic of Martin's practice. In each work, the texture-heavy surface documents the artist's bodily movement in the process of its creation, an approach developed from his concern with the physical properties of his materials.
In this video, STPI Gallery Executive Rachel Tan discusses a selection of three paintings from Meta Physical. Rainmaker and Hereafter (both 2018) are paper pulp paintings that Martin created by using his hands to mold the wet paper pulp. With their tactile and sculptural surfaces, the works call for an up-close inspection. Such an inspection reveals the paper as extremely thin despite the apparent weight of the pulp on it. The relief print Out of mind (2018) shifts depending on the viewer's position in relation to it. From afar, its plane seems to be filled by expressive marks and horizontal lines over washes of red paint; once close, however, the intricate marks within the lines—a result of the rotary device Martin employed to prepare the printing plate—become visible.
Martin was born in the United Kingdom's Channel Islands in 1970, and graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 1993. His early abstract paintings from the 1990s show the artist developing various methods of manipulating oil and acrylic paint, such as dragging, scraping, or combing the paint across different supports in an investigation of its materiality. The horizontal painting Lover (1997), for example, features soft undulating lines in an expanse of red caused by combing through the wet paint, while Detox (1999) depict a pattern of upright and upturned triangles in sweeping strokes, painted in acrylic on aluminium.
An artist who experiments with a range of materials and techniques to create abstract paintings evocative of post-Minimalism and Colour Field Painting, Martin also creates metal-cast works. For his solo show Painting as Sculpture at Lisson Gallery, Milan, in 2013, the artist presented small copper- and nickel-cast works such as Cabo (2013), which captures the thickness, texture, and volume of a glob of paint on a smooth surface.
It was also around this time that Martin took a three-year break from working with oil paint because he wanted to rethink his relationship to it. He resumed his work in the medium in 2016 with simpler approaches. Instead of the large paintbrush, for example, the artist adopted smaller, hand-held brushes for paintings such as Untitled (Davy's Grey / Ivory Black) (2016). In this painting, broad strokes (made by the hand-held brush) across the canvas form uneven horizontal lines, while the top and bottom are smoothed out in an interplay of control and chance.
For Martin's current solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery in London (15 May–22 June 2019), titled Long Way Home, he expanded his practice to work with graphite. In collaboration with the paint manufacturer Old Holland, the artist invented a new type of oil paint in two shades with graphite in its mixture. The shades, named 'Jason Graphite Grey' and 'Jason Graphite Grey Deep', give the resulting paintings a slight metallic finish. Also on view are other monochromatic paintings by Martin.
STPI (Singapore Tyler Print Institute) is a not-for-profit creative workshop and contemporary art gallery that, since 2002, has been promoting artistic engagement with print and paper through exhibitions, workshops, public programmes, and an international residency programme. In the forthcoming Art Basel in Basel (13–16 June 2019), STPI will present works by Martin alongside the works of artists such as Ryan Gander, Carsten Höller, Shirazeh Houshiary, Kim Lim, Do Ho Suh, Pae White, and Haegue Yang.—[O]