Will Martyr is known for his vibrant, hyperreal paintings representing dreamlike locations of pleasure and recreation. The title of the show represents a unit of water or a hunger to gain a new sense of understanding; the viewer is invited to delve deep into these compositions and assimilate.
Martyr trained at the Slade School of Fine Art, The New York Studio Schools and the Royal College of Art. Fathoms follows his debut solo show Wanderlust at Unit London in 2017.
Fathoms is comprised of eight large-scale tondos, the renaissance name for circular works of art, used by Martyr to represent an embracing wholeness and notions of eternity. Martyr’s interest in renaissance paintings is not limited to the shape of the works however, and for this exhibition he has been deeply inspired by the compositions of the early perspective pioneers of the fifteenth century; Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca. Whereas Uccello dramatised his battle scenes with the use of lances and rhythmic use of pattern and colour, Martyr utilises the line of a deckchair or fanning of a parasol to lead the viewer through his compositions. Uccello will depict a fine head garment of the central character to offer a place for the eye to rest. Martyr too offers these breaks in the more playful additions of macarons, inflatable flamingos and parasols.
This exhibition will present new works that continue to depict locations reminiscent of childhood vacations and moments of relaxation. The settings draw parallels with Hockney’s fantasy compositions, set within the prism of a sunny playground, populated with louche-living. For this exhibition, Martyr has explored more communal areas, inviting the viewer to stay and play. In To Love And Be Loved two deck chairs convey the male and female form without any animate figures. The paintings are full of humanity and familiarity, yet the players are missing. This allows the viewer to inhabit these locations, triggering memories and personal moments from their own past. It is this that makes Martyr’s work euphoric, seductive and contemplative at the same time.
Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt, co-founders of Unit London, said, “Will’s paintings inspire a very personal reaction when you look at them, creating a private reminiscence of playfulness and enjoyment in the viewer. His style is also incredibly precise, and his luminous use of colour creates a warmth and certainty to life, which is both exhilarating and effortless.”
Martyr’s complex paintings are built from meticulous hand-drawn compositions, masked off and cut to shape using surgical blades before being hand- painted in block colours. At first glance, the paintings are characterised by flat areas of graphic colour, but on closer inspection the layers of paint and raised impasto elements become apparent, signifying Martyr’s scrupulous attention to detail.
This series of new tondos will be accompanied by Martyr’s first ever Neon sculpture. This complex five phase Neon, will be constructed around the shape of a beach parasol gently blowing in the wind.