Bold yet meditative, dynamic yet serene, the works of Christopher H. Martin harness the passions and intricate subtleties of Nature.
The success of Martin’s works is due in part to his signature practice of verre églomisé. This “gilded glass”, or reverse glass painting, is accomplished by working on the back plane of his Lucite canvasses, beginning with the foreground and layering upwards of sixty compositions, one upon another, to achieve a depth and luminosity unattainable with traditional canvas. Although the practice of verre églomisé dates back to antiquity, Martin’s radical reinterpretation of the art form allows for a freedom of expression unachievable by conventional methods.
From his original experiments on shop windows, to his current monumental masterpieces, the evolution of his craft is influenced primarily from Nature. His colors, his movements, his subjects, even his methods, are inspired by events in nature captured behind a pane of glass. It is this juxtaposition between the clean, polished final work, and the highly gestural abstractions depicted, that give his art work such drama. By removing the painterly aspects one would expect from such dynamic pieces, a tension between structure and abandon is achieved, mirroring that same balance in Nature.
In order to harness this into his works, Martin has eschewed many traditional tools of the painter and has turned to the very implements of nature—heat, wind, and water—to influence his paints. The blowtorch and leaf-blower are as important as the brush and palette to his creations. Similar to the gestural abstractionists, Martin’s pieces capture events, but not simply his own interactions with the glass, but also frozen moments from Nature—polished agates, petrified wood, frost at sunset, or shifting dunes—his works both abstract and reveal the world around him.
This Organic Expressionism, as Martin labels his practice, is heir to Pollock’s action paintings, Rothko’s color fields, Barnett Newman’s zips, and Kenneth Noland’s targets. Yet Martin’s works touch upon something besides movement and color, expanding upon the breakthroughs of Abstract Expressionists and exploring new territories. Martin builds upon the tradition and imbues it with a relevancy, not simply to contemporary art, but also to historical, environmental, and social concerns. While the urgent spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism is present in his pieces, there is an added responsibility in his works that reflects shifts in both artistic practice and social awareness in relation to the natural world.
Twenty Years offers for the first time a comprehensive survey of Martin’s oeuvre of themed explorations: Prismatic Rings, Luna, Arc, Lattice, Bala, Lucid, Cascade, Halo. Each series examines different aspects of gesture and nature, revealing the moods and temperaments, whispers and yawps, of Martin’s capricious, yet benevolent muse. More presciently though, Twenty Years begins to chronicle the legacy of an artist whose innovative approach to his medium and reverential treatment of his subject may predict the trajectory of contemporary art. As social awareness and environmental concerns dominate the new millennium, Christopher H. Martin is in the vanguard, blending tradition and experimentation, abstraction and depiction, into a vibrant, essential discourse on the world and man’s place in it.