Author(s): Brett McDowell Gallery
Martin is a well recognized character of the character-filled city-fringe neighbourhood of upper Cuba Street in Wellington. This is an area of 100-year-old wooden Victorian shops and villas, mostly run-down since being zoned for motorway development. This was always the bohemian setting for students and artists since the drug-addled ‘70s. Martin has been around since those days. Martin is a solitary man, but never idle; his conversation is abrupt and urgent and the sense given is that time is not to be wasted and foolish people, unreliable people (particularly bureaucrats) cannot be tolerated. This is a man with a mission. Martin is never without a bag, stowed business-like under an arm. The bag contains a pile of drawings: some are recent works in progress, others are several years old. The drawings represent the evolution over his lifetime of a graphic system of creating order, pattern, and logic in the face of the random, the chaotic, and the unreliable. This work is Martin’s mission, and until last year it had never been out of his hands. His drawing materials are A3 (420mm x 297mm) or A4 (297mm x 210mm) graph paper with 1mm squares and fine point ink marking pens. The choice of colour is of critical significance in his final analysis of the overall success of a work. His technique is to meticulously colour in sequenced rows of the tiny squares, so that layers of sequences combine to form complex quilts, radiating mandalas, or patterns of pixilated TV static. There is no testing, no trial runs, all the calculations for the work occur in his mind’s eye and appear miraculously and with mechanical certainty on the page. My understanding, gleaned from watching Marty work, is that a pre-determined sequence is set out, applied in strips, and other patterns are overlaid (again in pre-determined calculations); this overlay affords the opportunity to render the first pattern in and out of the negative.