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Heather Gwen Martin at Luis De Jesus

October 5, 2010
Heather Gwen Martin, Reflexive, 2010 OIL ON LINEN 48 X 67 IN / 121.9 X 170.2 CM

Seeing Painting that really gives you a charge is a rare experience indeed. It’s not that Painting is dead…far from it. But when you witness an urgency to a painting’s very existence, well, that’s a delight and a Truffle worth broadcasting.
I first saw Heather Gwen Martin’s solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus Gallery at a jam-packed vernissage. The large color abstractions rabbit punched my retinas pretty much immediately. Spectacularly illuminated by both incandescent, flourescent and natural light, the cohesive body of work is revelatory. I’ve thought of them fondly for the past two weeks and a recent revisit to the exhibition confirmed and consolidated my admiration. The reasons for my ardor are numerous and this post might best be served by a list.

Heather Gwen Martin, Trigonometric Functions, 2010 OIL ON LINEN 60 X 84 IN / 152.4 X 213.4 CM

1.) Aesthetic Intelligence: Abstraction can be a thorny issue. Martin’s work is unapologetic. By this I mean that several artists working within the abstract paradigm seem hellbent on hanging their practice and intuition on conceptual underpinnings. They produce abstracted works rather than actually painting abstract work. There’s a significant difference. Martin uses line, volume and form interchangeably and they often careen off and from each other to amazing effect.

Heather Gwen Martin, Water Levels, 2010 OIL ON LINEN 60 X 84 IN / 152.4 X 213.4 CM

2.) Compositional Absolutes. If you’ve ever seen either Manet’s Execution of Maximilian or Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock, you’ve been set under the spell of artists who conduct the viewer’s eye like Georg Solti leading the Chicago Symphony. They are in control of your vision’s path. They never allow for cul de sacs or unintentional stasis. Martin’s canvases coax and cajol your eye across their planes. Your eye dances across the surface. She draws you close with heartbreaking detail and pushes you back with color and form that can only be digested from across the room.

Heather Gwen Martin, Suspension, 2010 OIL ON LINEN 38 X 53 IN / 96.5 X 134.6 CM

3.) Technique and Craft. Martin wields her materials with control and precision that serve her visual paradigm. Truly accomplished technical execution is always a pleasure to witness but it’s the rare moment when craftsmanship is at the service of such aesthetic dexterity. The surfaces bear no discernible trace of the human hand yet one recognises that they are organic and doggedly non digital. In the hands of a lesser artist this precision might seem cool or worse calculated but Martin’s canvases are witty and conversational. They are as far from the superflat paradigms of Takashi Murakami as one could get.

Heather Gwen Martin, Sniper, 2009 Oil on linen 48 x 67 in / 121.9 x 170.2 cm

4.) Tightrope Walking. And here Martin treads an elegant line. They are cheery without being saccharine. The canvases are intelligent without being dogmatic. They are bright without being garish. They exude pleasure yet have resonance. And lastly the paintings dialogue with one another but each remains autonomous. Yes, the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts but boy those parts don’t whither by themselves.

I beseech you to see these bravado paintings in person for although they pack some punch here in the digital world, this is work to be seen in person. The colors vibrate against one another. They will follow you home.

Heather Gwen Martin At Luis De Jesus

All images used with gracious permission by Luis De Jesus Gallery.

Heather Gwen Martin through October 16th, 2010

T +1 310 453 7773

  1. Would love to see these in person. They look fabulous!

  2. They are cool. Wish I could see them with you. Had a bit of a time trying to articulate all that I liked without seeming liking a gushing schoolgirl.

  3. Ric Gibbs permalink

    Well I’m not surprised you have 2000 followers! You’re really finding your voice with this blog.

    Can’t say why, but something about this artist’s composition reminds me of Arshile Gorky.

    Bravo Mario.

    • The Gorky allusion is interesting. The volumetric dissolving into the linear and back again is where you’re probably getting that. See the show and let me know if that sense is evident in person as well. Delighted you tuned in. It’s obvious that I’m having fun at it.

  4. Bob White permalink

    “…an urgency to a painting’s very existence” I love this. Like you gotta go pee. Truffle hunt on!

  5. Exactly! You got it! The Pressure, the relief. While the metaphor may not be poetic, it’s spot on. And furthermore we’re in the midst of toilet training so I don’t want to describe the Jackson Pollack like adventures we’re experiencing now! Hah!

  6. Boris Klapwald permalink

    the paintings are cosmic.they elicit images of sunspots and solar explosions
    albeit in the most delightful way. glad you found them. perhaps i can see them

    • I like the sunspots and solar explosions imagery. It’s a dead on description. I’ll let you know if she shows in Manhattan.

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