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Why We Love Art

Why We Love Art

Martin Thompson,
Untitled, Courtesy of the artist
Click to enlarge

Martin Thompson
Courtesy of the artist


“Every now and then contemporary art delivers a little surprise, which is why I love it,” New York Times art critic Holland Cotter enthused about Obsessive Drawing. The 2005-2006 show, at the prestigious American Folk Art Museum, featured five outsider artists from around the world, including Wellington’s own Martin Thompson.

Thompson, a long-time Wellington identity, wowed leading critics with his work. “Volatile, radioactive, problematically hot,” The New York Times described the show. “Could hardly be purer or more authentic. Seeing it is an exhilarating reminder of everything you ever thought (and learned better than to ask) about the relationship between art and madness and about the overwhelming compulsion to make art,” said Slate’s Francine Prose. “The result can be mesmerising, as if you’re glimpsing an object through separate blizzards,” The Village Voice described Thompson’s work.

Using fractal equations Martin Thompson’s work is produced by colouring in sequences of 1mm squares on to graph paper, using fine-tipped coloured ink pens. These patterns build up into dazzling geometric abstractions. Historically, Thompson has focused on a time-consuming hand-made method.

However, Martin Thompson’s exhibition in the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery at City Gallery Wellington, curated by Stuart Shepherd and Jessica Reid, marks a change of direction in his practice. Having never used a computer before this year, with the help of Photoshop and a graphic designer, he has expanded the scale of his drawings, further demonstrating his abilities as a colourist.

The result is intricate, rigorous, detailed, intense and passionate. Thompson has explored the potential offered by digitally manipulating his works into both eye-sizzling large-scale prints and a wallpaper design which replicates his initial drawings over and over. The explosive optical effect recalls the art of Bridget Riley and Elizabeth Thomson, moving and floating through space. As Slate put it, “fascinating and beautiful”.

Biography: Martin Thompson was born in 1956. He has been included in exhibitions ‘Self taught and Visionary’ curated by Stuart Shepherd, Idiom Studio, Wellington, 2000; ‘Dirty Pixels’, curated by Stella Brennan, which toured New Zealand between 2002 and 2003; ‘Spirit World’ curated by Stuart Shepherd, Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, 2005; ‘Obsessive Drawing’ American Folk Art Museum, New York, 2005-2006. Martin lives in Te Aro, Wellington. He is represented in New York by Phyllis Kind, America’s leading dealer of outsider art.

Martin Thompson
Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, City Gallery Wellington
13 October– 12 November 2006

Michael Hirschfeld Gallery is proudly sponsored by DesignWorks Enterprise IG. Thanks also to Resolution Print, Colourcraft; and Publication and Design, Wellington City Council.


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