Lisa Lavelle casts a critical eye on the exhibition of Fergus Martin.
Cork born artist, Fergus Martin opened his exhibition at the Hugh Lane gallery on the 10th October. In the opening ceremony, he was praised both by the Lord Mayor, Eibhlin Byrne and the gallery’s director, Barbara Dawson.
At this prestigious opening, Martin himself, in a refreshingly down-to-earth and simple speech thanked many staff members of the gallery personally for their contribution. Martin’s work, though dramatic and seemingly quite personal is equally simple.
Martin has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad. He is one of the leading Irish artists working today. He attended Dun Laoghaire College of Art in the 1970s. He later lived and worked in Italy for nearly ten years, both as an artist and as a college professor.
His paintings are almost dauntingly straightforward and uncluttered and at first glance, somewhat baffling
He has exhibited in a number of European countries with a number of modern art groups. He is also known for his collaborations with photographer, Martin Hobbs. The pair have exhibited at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), as well as various other Dublin galleries and in Venice.
In the past, Martin’s work has been varied. He has worked with paint, photography and various forms of sculpture and 3D-installations, all of which have shared a sense of vigour and energy.
His latest sculpture, ‘Steel’ was unveiled outside IMMA on the Thursday the 9th October. Martin said of the piece that “One of the first thoughts I had was wanting the sculpture to give people a feeling of surprise and happiness every time they saw it.”
The artist’s work exhibits a strong feeling of joy; of a joy in colour and shape and form. It is simple and bold, whatever medium he is working in.
His paintings are almost dauntingly straightforward and uncluttered and at first glance, somewhat baffling. The paintings in the Hugh Lane exhibition follow a certain format: they consist of blocks of colour juxtaposed with blocks of white.
The art works, which are painted with acrylic on canvas, are dramatic and simple in design, and vary in size and composition.
There is also an installation piece, which consists of plastic pipes painted purple with car paint. The pipes are aligned carefully next to each other, lying on the floor. This piece is called ‘Violets’.
Many of Martin’s pieces, perhaps paradoxically, take their names from nature. There is a piece in the exhibition called ‘Ground’ and another called ‘Rose’.
The official Hugh Lane brief of the exhibition claims that the colour in Martin’s work “belongs to the entirety of the world as the eye sees it, and renders it accessible”. Martin’s work, though non-figurative, is not senseless. His work perplexes many viewers who cannot describe it as either conceptual art or a social commentary.
These pieces unite colour and shape, but ask no questions of the viewer. The pieces are described as being “united by a sense of drama and raucous reflection”. Martin’s works are colour. They are colour as an aim, colour as a feeling.
His works are colour as a shape and as a force. Barbara Dawson described their simplicity and vitality as “balm” in a world full of messages. It’s hard to disagree.