Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chromatic toxic syrup

Leigh Martin
Jensen Gallery
25 August - 2 October 2009

If you can imagine a Jules Olitski painting immersed in a vat of intensely saturated dye, or parts of the Shroud of Turin dropped into a viscous Dale Frank, then you get a little closer to experiencing the qualities of these Leigh Martin paintings - made out of super glossy yacht hull resin.

Through the six glistening surfaces of Martin’s six ultra-chromatic, variously sized works you can detect wispy strands of fog at the edges, gently glowing bleached auras in the middle, plus the odd vertical streaky brush line or murky group of dots. Examining them is a bit like going deep sea diving – in a sea of acid yellow, purply red or vivid lolly green. It is all very very still.

The big yellow ones you really feel you could step into, but some of the smaller works have a compacted but subtle density. As well as looking through their centres, you engage with their sides (lots of waxy encrusted drips round the back of the stretcher) and gently darker edges.

While these paintings look as if made from layers of very thin syrup at a confectionary factory there is a sense of toxic bloom (like poisonous algae) as well. Something slightly hideous that you can’t quite put your finger on, that beckons you closer – but which warns you to be cautious, despite its optical allure.

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