ArtTalks | An unattainable utopia

18 Jan 2018
3 min read
Will Martyr’s work conjures a timeless sense of elegance and nostalgia within a constructed reality.

With most of his work being almost entirely dedicated to private commissions, Will Martyr’s new body of work in 2017 is a rare opportunity to see a completely new collection of work before it disappears into private collections.

The twenty new original paintings depict pool sides, mountains, and beachfront idylls. Each of the canvases are uniquely euphoric and designed to trigger one’s own memories or daydreams of the past, present or future.

“Images are everywhere. Our environment is relentlessly permeated by millions of images: scrolling, clicking, watching, sharing and living our memories through images of places, faces and spaces. These images all coalesce to form our perception of reality and personal experience. Images merge to continually update our personal recollection of past events. The seed of the reality is in the image but much of memory is reconstructed recollections. With the passage of time we continually add to the collection of self-defining autobiographical memories. We inevitably conflate and merge mental images from different events and locations.”

With a somewhat seductive utopian feel to the paintings, the viewer is invited to become the unique eyewitnesses to the scene. Their experience of the paintings can be entirely different depending on their own memories and expectations. In this sense, the painting provides a framework to create additional conversations and scenarios. Equally, the deliberate absence of people within the paintings further provides a private space to add a personal narrative to the alternate reality before them.

“My paintings represent this process of image amalgamation. They are hybrids of personal experiences of places and found images, which together form a new reality. In my work, by controlling and allowing rogue images from found places to mix with remembered places, these collected recollections become beliefs that feel like memories. Colour has always played a central role in my work, enhancing and creating tensions within the compositions. Colour choices can jar or intensify perspective and encourage the eye to rest on certain elements within the composition. The saturation of the colours that I use intensifies the overall impact of the painting to such an extent that the viewer must question their perception that the locations are real.”

Martyr’s uncompromising process is hand painted and involves many stages to create flawless canvases. His skilled observation of line and shadow brings depth to the paintings, emphasizing the horizontal with simple symmetrical planes.

Inspired by post-war Americana/Pop Art, Modernism, Italian Futurist and Russian 1930s Posters, his paintings are reminiscent of holiday postcards. Titles such as ‘Stay Until Tomorrow’, ‘Where We Belong’ and ‘It’s Only Us’ advertise themes of an almost unattainable vitality and effortless chic.

In the new collection we find that these familiar settings become soft-focus templates for our deep memories, at once heightening and embellishing reality. The artist promises us clear skies as flawless as beauty adverts, yet there is something unsettling about the perfect lines and deep blue hues of his hyper-real depictions of infinity pools, postcard-perfect mountains and luxury residences.

With their picture-perfect finish and alluring elegance we are reminded of the glossy photos used within architectural or interiors magazines. Deliberately used to convey an impossibly pristine world-view that is both strangely devoid of human presence, yet unavoidably attractive. Our image-saturated world continually frames the world we perhaps want to see as we avert our gaze from troubling realities.

Meticulous, mesmerising, and flawless in appearance, these beautifully composed original paintings need to be seen in the flesh to fully appreciate their hauntingly luminous quality. But just like rose-tinted glasses, with Will Martyr’s work you can’t help but think of the darkness that lurks on either side of the glossy frame.