The work of Matt R Martin

The sombre figures of Melbourne artist Matt R Martin exist, tormented, in eerie hallways and conspicuously empty living spaces.  Martin describes familiar subjects and environments in a manner that transforms them from recognisable people and environments into threatening and alien subjects oblivious to the voyeuristic spies who stare curiously at each canvas.  Facial features and identities are often covered or obscured and his subjects left in a bizarre state of suspended animation.  His paintings are heavily influenced by his love of film and life drawing and each could easily be mistaken for a film still.  He creates blank ambiguous compositions that provoke a strong emotional reaction through his use of chiaroscuro lighting and compelling yet simple imagery.  Explaining very little in the way of narrative, Martin draws his audience in with his beautifully intricate and detailed painting of the human form and his sensitive portrayal of seemingly empty spaces.  Rather than blocking in the walls of his background he depicts them as though they were an extra haunted figure in his work, echoing with the events that have occurred there in the past.  Lovingly detailing each damp patch, irregular ripple, variation in texture and dark crevice, he often breaks the gloom of each space with the cold, piercing illumination of a window that plunges unsympathetic light on to each scene.   The resulting high-contrast, bleached palette is remarkably similar to film noir and perhaps provokes an expectation of drama, romance and danger because of this.  At first glance Martin’s work is easily distinguished as being hyper-real painting but rather than slavish replication of photographic imagery, his paintings, with their sinister ambiguities and experimental examination of perspective and focus, demonstrate the work of an artist who is capable of a much broader range of expression.  The dappled flesh, tangled hair and mangled poses of his subjects characterise the work of a man who is clearly as interested in the anatomy of a body as the psyche of the person inhabiting it.


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