Seoul Fort Hill
24 February—16 April 2022
Jason Martin’s new series of works on aluminium mark his return to oil painting with brushes, a method the artist has not used for the past decade. A new phase in his ongoing exploration of painterly possibilities, these recent works are based on repeating inward movements with the brush that converge at a central point. He likens this to a ‘merging of place and time’ or a ‘threshold encounter’, as well as drawing parallels with the Korean tradition of bojagi wrapping.
Continuously experimenting with new materials and methods, Martin often develops his own tools, such as the combs used to shape dense striations of pigment in previous works. Created using traditional brushes, his most recent paintings exhibit a lightness of touch and delicacy of tone that set them apart from the thick impasto and highly saturated colours of earlier series. The aluminium pictorial grounds capture and reflect light, lending the paintings their radiant luminosity. The artist creates his own natural pigments and experiments with different combinations of colours, as in Untitled (Caribbean blue / Viridian) or Untitled (Titanium white / Fluorescent orange). The prevalence of white-based tones in these works contributes to their subtlety and clarity of colour, which is further emphasised by the soft feathering of the brushstrokes.
Each work is structured by Martin’s controlled, repeated brushstrokes that fold in towards a focal point at the heart of the painting. He describes this meditative act of convergence as bringing ‘outer movements into a suggested singularity’. In Renaissance art, the introduction of linear perspective resulted in compositions where all lines converge at a central vanishing point, creating the illusion of depth in figurative scenes. Martin’s monochrome abstractions are informed by the traditions of figuration, a ‘paradox’ that he considers his ‘place of departure’. As he explains, ‘There is always a tension that I am challenged to identify in each work’, as ‘the spaces are neither imaginary nor depicted’.
The square format of Martin’s aluminium grounds, as well as the inward motion of his brushwork, recalls the folding of cloth typical of bojagi. In this traditional Korean textile technique, square pieces of cloth are skilfully constructed from fabric scraps and used as wrappings for gifts, special occasions or rituals. As the artist recalls, his interest in bojagi dates back to his residency in Japan: ‘At least 25 years have passed since I was entrusted with the safekeeping of a Japanese tea master’s kimono. Yamada Sohen from Kamakura left me this bojagi-wrapped kimono in London, but he has not yet retrieved this formal garment and I have never opened it to see what is inside, as I could never repeat the tied bow. There is a mystery to this that I do not want to risk losing if I were to upset this very precise and dignified shelter for a historical garment.’
Structured by complex relationships between the framing edges, colour combinations and brushed lines, these works become a reflection on the act of painting itself. Every detail of the surface texture draws attention to the physicality of the implied gestures that have defined them. The sinuous curves of the artist’s sweeping brushstrokes suggest a sense of flowing, continuous movement that animates the pictorial surface, leading the eye in towards the centre where all lines converge. In this way, Martin’s paintings become an imaginary space, a mental landscape, an abstracted and mesmeric focal point for contemplation.