Saturday, 21 July 2018

These Clouds of Forgetting

Study: Ancestral Clouds II, 2017, Oil and beeswax on canvas, 30.5x30.5cm

We often speak of having a ‘clouded memory’ of an event or a face or a feeling. The clouds in these paintings represent these ‘clouded memories’. In this case, the memories are of forgotten forebears who lived, married, bore children and died on the lands around Mt Remarkable in South Australia.
Having no photographic records to evoke these lost members of the family, I did the next best thing, and travelled to the towns where they lived. Some of the towns are now just a dot of the map, bustling townships rendered to dust through the vagaries of the boom-bust cycle of our economic world. While the towns have long gone, the land remains, and is a tangible connection to those who lived there.
I stood on the land where only the foundation stones remain of the church that my great-great grand mother and father were married in on their way north from Adelaide in the 1860s. I stood in front the graves of many – some only infants, some living to a grand age, some surrounded by extended family, some solitary - and wondered what brought them here.
I travelled through the landscape of my pioneering forebears in early winter and the clouds hung low to the ground for the whole week we were there. They were like a soft veil over the land, softening the colours and sounds, casting a damp sheen over everything.
So, these paintings capture something of the experience of bringing into the light - the present - the names and the places that make up my father’s legacy.  When I started painting I was drawn to a monochrome palette -ultramarine, black and white, reflecting a somewhat dark and sombre mood. As I progressed, the palette expanded and the ground I started with became the warm ochre orange of the land, instead of the deep blue of sky. It was as though the clouds were lifting: the mood lighter and brighter now.

Helen Martin
April 2018

Approaching Mannanarie, 2018, Oil and beeswax on linen, 46x57cm

Approaching Georgetown, 2018, Oil and beeswax on canvas, 87.5x96.5cm

Study: Ancestral Clouds IV, 2017, Oil and beeswax on canvas, 30.5x30.5cm

Travelling to Melrose, 2018, Oil and beeswax on canvas, 45.5x45.5cm

Saturday, 7 May 2016

New Show - The Cloud Horizon

Helen Martin, Sea/Cloud Horizon - Robe, 2016, oil and beeswax on linen, 90 x 120cm

The Cloud Horizon

In this body of work - The Cloud Horizon - I want to refocus our attention on the clouds we find in our natural world; to reclaim them from the digital world where ‘the cloud’ is a place we store ‘packets of data’ in energy hungry mainframes many thousands of kilometres from our homes.

The horizon is central to these paintings – that imaginary line that depicts the boundary between different physical states: land and sky; sea and sky; land and cloud; and when seen from above, cloud and cloud.  The horizon can also be a standard we set for ourselves, something we are always travelling towards, but not able to quite reach. 

More ominously, the horizon can represent a limit – a point of no return - that once reached, pulls us into a vortex of destruction. The Cloud Horizon for me is a way to ponder what will become of clouds when we reach the point of no return with climate change.

I started this work after a road trip to Robe in South Australia in late autumn 2014 and finished it after another road trip in 2015, around the same time of year, from Perth to Broome via Karijini National Park in Western Australia.  On both trips we spent some time travelling through soft, cloudy rainy days.  The clouds seemed to be hugging the horizon.  They were comforting clouds. the stratus clouds that form when warm air rolls in over cooler ground, forcing the moisture in them to condense, and depending on the temperature, to fall as rain or hail or snow or mist.

These are the clouds that we look for on the horizon when we are waiting for rain, and are happy to see them.

I wonder what will become of these clouds as we travel rapidly and unpredictably towards the climate change horizon.  Will we long to see them and the life giving water they bring, and will we also dread them as they hang around for days releasing a deluge of destruction?

Helen Martin
April 2016

Helen Martin, Night Cloud - Point Lonsdale, 2016, oil and beeswax on linen, 57 x 46cm

Helen Martin, Land/Cloud Horizon - Leaving Karijini I, 2016, oil and beeswax on linen, 51 x 76cm

Helen Martin, Land Cloud Horizon - Heading West on the B140 IV, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 60cm

Helen Martin, Land Cloud Horizon - Heading West on the B140 I, 2014,Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 60cm

Helen Martin, Cloud/Cloud Horizon, 2016, Oil and Beeswax on linen, 120 x 90cm

Sunday, 20 July 2014

2 up coming solos shows

Over August I am please to be holding two solo shows, one in Geelong and the other in Melbourne

The first show is at Etch Studio Gallery

 The second show is with Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnson St, Abbortsford, Victoria 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Disquieting Beauty

Mezquita de Cordoba I, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen
Helen Martin
A disquieting beauty
An exhibition of new paintings
Friday 25 - Sunday 27 April, 2014
11am to 5pm daily
St George’s Old School Hall
Cr Hobson and Learmonth Sts, Queenscliff, Victoria

I start these paintings of Spain with smears of waxy Alizarin on the raw linen surface – the warm blood of creatures, the blood of sacrifice.  Then comes a layer of waxy ochre – the sand of forgetting to cover the spilt blood.  It can never quite obliterate the red stain, either in reality or in memory.  I discover the two create this beautiful hue - a warm orange that glows and belies the pain that is so close.

And so I begin painting my impressions of a summer travelling through southern Spain.  What binds together these fragments of place are their underlying stories – some factual, some myth, all imbued with themes of timelessness, sacrifice and forgetting. They have taken me on an intriguing exploration of what constitutes sacred space; of the power of desire; and its capacity to engender violence and destruction along with beauty and grace. As Spain emerged from the bloody legacy of the civil war and Franco years, it embraced an uneasy pact of forgetting as a way to move forward. There was much to forget, but some memories are hard to erase.
Andalusia, the fabled Al Andalus of Islamic rule, where the people of the Book, Muslim, Jew and Christian, lived together with religious tolerance for seven centuries, until it disintegrated with the Reconquista – the desire for Spain to be ruled under one faith.  Or is this claim of tolerance itself a form of forgetting: a covering over of the messy bits that challenge or question its veracity.

Plaza de Torres de Sevilla – her graceful archways enclose an arena of intimate scale, breathtaking simplicity and striking colour, especially in late summer.  Brassy strands of the Paso doble are but faint echoes, along with the emotion rich cries of olĂ© from the aficionados of the ritual, but the blood from slain bulls and maimed toreros sinks deep into the sand.  Be it dance, drama or cruel sport, the Corrida encompasses all these forms as it plays out the complex cultural and sexual mores of Andalusian life.

Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, Toledo, the oldest synagogue still standing in Europe, was designed by an Islamic architect for the Jewish people of Toledo living under Christian rule.  Now recognised as a symbol of great religious tolerance and co-existence. Its conversion to a catholic church in the 12th century came after a mob, incited by a zealous Dominican friar of the Inquisition, forced its Jewish community to convert.  Disputed stories of a massacre still haunt its serene white-arched interior.  The mauve shadows hint at a bruising past.
Mezquita de Cordoba – originally a roman temple then a Christian church, the mosque was the third largest in the world. Built by Muslim Caliphs over a 200 year period, its vast stands of soaring, red and ochre horseshoe arches, its ornate Mahrib and fragrant orange tree filled courtyard, remain today. In 1236, with Ferdinand III’s victory in the Reconquista, it was reconsecrated as a catholic church and is now the seat of the Bishop of Cordoba.  The renaissance cathedral nave, inserted in the heart of the mosque under Carlo V, ruptures rather than integrates the sacred space. It makes its mark, but is acknowledged as a travesty.  

Mircea Eliade writes in The Sacred and the Profane (1957) that a sacred space is one set aside for the purpose of ritual. When crossing the threshold of such places we leave our own time behind and enter into the timelessness of hallowed ritual.  In Spain, the plazas de torres, sinagogas, mezquitas and churches all have this quality of timelessness.  They are multi layered sites of sacred rites and sacrifice - Andalusian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Their architecture is integral to their rituals and sacredness, and it encloses centuries of human experience, memory, emotion and spilt blood.  It holds the stories, the good and the bad, and for those who cross these thresholds with hearts that see and hear, the stories live on.

April 2014

Plaza de Torres de Sevilla, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen

Real Alcazar  de Sevilla, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen
Passages II, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen

Juderia Cordoba, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen

Passages III, 2014, Beeswax and oil on linen
Sinagoga de Santa Maria Blanca, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen

Passages I, 2014, beeswax and oil on linen

Moments in Time

Moving Image II, 2013, Beeswax and oil on linen

Helen Martin 
Moments in time
An exhibition of new paintings
Saturday 6 to Monday 8 April, 2013
St George’s Old School Hall, on the corner of Hobson and Learmonth Sts, Queenscliff
open11.00am-5.00pm daily.

In this series of paintings I explore travelling through Australian landscapes.  These particular works record the tranquillity of a moment as I passed quickly through the Myall Lakes in New South Wales on a misty mid-winter morning: A fleeting instant, but one that endures in memory - emotionally and physically- as a memento of that time.
Travelling across the land has been a constant in my life from a young age growing up in the desert. As kids we would often head out into the bush just as something to do - to break the monotony of life in town.  ‘Let’s go for a drive!’ was the call. And then there were the long annual drives to the city on the coast, later done by air in small planes.  The landscape was ever present, flashing by sometimes as blur and at other times as if in slow motion, but always moving on. 
My vista was often from the side window rather than the windscreen.  This sideways view is always fleeting.  The scene was only there for a second or two. Colours and features are always changing: blending one into the other, morphing from mulga to Mallee scrub, to grazing land and crop fields.
So when setting out last year to travel to Treachery near Seal Rocks in New South Wales, I decided to document our travels from the perspective of the passenger side window.  This series of Moments in time relates a sequence of shots I took with the camera in my little Sony Ericsson mobile phone over 5 minutes, from 1.28 to 1.33pm on 1 June 2012.

Open Spaces, 2013, beeswax and oil on linen

Stillness, 2013, beeswax and oil on linen

Dancing Trees, 2013, beeswax and oil on linen

Helen Martin, Arise my love, intaglio print, 2011

Helen Martin
I am dark, but lovely: reading the land with the ‘Song of Songs’

An exhibition of paintings and prints

9-11 April, 2012    
St George’s Old School Hall      
Crn Hobson and Learmonth Sts, Queenscliff       
 11.30am-4.30pm daily   

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Last Summer in Italy..., 2010

Helen Martin, Costa di San Giorgio, 2009, oil on canvas, 91x121cm

Helen Martin

Last summer in Italy...

March 6-8, 2010
St George’s Old School Hall
Crn Hobson and Learmonth Sts, Queenscliff
11.30am-4.30pm daily
Sponsored by Brooker Consulting Company Pty Ltd

Last summer in Italy...’ presents a series of studies and paintings Helen has completed since returning from a four week stay in Italy last June. Her paintings capture the colour and mood of streetscapes around Florence and Lucca.  This is her first solo exhibition. 

In her painting and print making Helen explores the notion of finding beauty in the ordinary and the mundane.  For her, getting to know a particular place - its colours, its forms, and textures - is like falling in love. Along with finding pleasure in the attractive comes a befriending of the plain, the hard and unappealing. Through the process of layering colour and texture with form, these landscapes are re-revealed, new-found and re-vitalised.

Helen Martin, Via di Neri, 2010, oil on canvas, 90x60cm