Lisson Gallery, Bell Street, London
11 May–23 June 2012
The main gallery space transports the viewer East with five luxurious pigment works in magentas, purples, pinks and turquoises that would make even the lushest bougainvillea seem faded. Forming convoluted wisps and whirls, as if the result of running a serrated knife through a jar of Nutella, Martin’s actual method is to mould, scrape and gouge out a basic sculptor’s medium, and then to apply layers of pure pigment whilst the surface is still wet. Once dry, it becomes rough and cracked, arid like a desert, yet radiating its energy far afield.
These works hang amongst his larger black oil on aluminium pieces, dark and cool, smoother than the others, but with surfaces like scratched records, or as if strands of long hair have been swept through the wet paint. Blues and purples shine through from the paint layers underneath, and indeed there is something serene and calming about these iridescent oil slicks.
Upstairs the temperature is turned up yet another notch, with a new series of cast works in nickel, copper, and bronze. The surfaces are aflow with rivulets, as if the metal slabs had been left out in the sun and then had someone come and scoop up the molten mass and smear it back where it belongs. Ceyx (2012), in particular, is frighteningly calescent as the heat builds: its perfectly smooth mirrored copper surface becomes perforated at a central point as if by an eruption, the lava from which is flowing out in spirals.
The final work in the show marks a new departure for Martin, as he expands into 3D sculpture in its true sense. Behemoth (2012), as its name might suggest, is an immense block, 3 x 3 x 2.6m, made from layers of cork coated in black pigment, but resembling stacks of burnt wood and hollow tree trunks, suggesting perhaps the remains of the fire, which created the works experienced earlier.
There is something breathtaking about Martin’s works, their richness, their energy, their celebration of Earth’s materials and processes – certainly one worth stepping out into the heat for.