Artist Interview: Leigh Martin - Art Collector

29 August 2011

New Zealand artist Leigh Martin spoke to Australian Art Collector at the Auckland Art Fair this year. Showcased by Jensen Gallery at the fair, Martin discusses his latest collection of poured resin works from the Loaded series.

Leigh Martin, Loaded Installation. Courtesy: the artist and Jensen Gallery

Can you tell me a bit about your works you have on display at the Auckland Art Fair?

This series called Loaded series refers to loading a paintbrush, which is a painterly term but it also references something ‘being loaded’ and over the top. I’m really interested in this notion of excess, in particular, in relation to painting and pure sensation, this idea of there being a sensation prior to conceptualising something.

The works are all poured resin. In fact, there is no brush and there are no tools for the actual substance. They are rocked side to side. They are made flat and contingent elements such as room temperature affects the drying time of the resin and the effect of it.

When looking at the glaze you are looking at all the layers from the base layer up to the last layers so everything is present to the viewer.

The colours are one of things that strike you on first glance. How do you pick your colours?

Basically there is no system to me picking them.

The nature of the process is that you never quite know what’s going to happen. I mean, some of these things are becoming a little bit more familiar the more I do it, so sometimes you can be quite pleasantly surprised. But it might only take a milligram of a pigment to decide a whole new colour relationship. And because you can’t control where it shifts in terms of its sense of gravity ... means that different colour combinations will appear.

People have referred to the works as an accident. They ask, 'so is this work produced by accident but I say it’s produced by incident?' What I’m interested in is nuance. I’m interested in what’s in that space. I'm interested in, not the way that repetition closes something down, but how repetitiveness opens everything up.

Leigh Martin, Loaded Installation. Courtesy: the artist and Jensen Gallery

When did you begin creating these works?

These works I began in 2007. That was when I had my first Loaded show. Since then, there’s been variations on the theme.

Have you seen your art practice change since then?

It took me a long time to find the resins. I had to work with chemists to develop the stability of the resin in terms of its longevity, and the resins to be used in this particular way because most resins are used in spray rather than in pouring.

It actually hasn’t been so much aesthetically driven but actually working with specialists and technicians. It’s quite nice to go out of the artistic realm which I’m really familiar with.

How and when did the idea for the Loaded series come about?

At that time I was lecturing at an art school in Auckland, and they bought a computerised painting machine called a chameleon which was actually designed by a NASA scientist.

I actually thought the machine was one of those pieces that sung out about the technology of uselessness, so to speak.

And a lot of works I did like the
Dissolved series talk about a mechanized process. I was really interested in that relationship between the body and the machine in relation to the actor-painter.

Over time, after using this computerised painting machine ... I became really detached from the painting. It was a really clunky system, but what I liked about it was that the machine would do something called 'ghosting' it would never recreate the original form exactly. In the same way that a Polaroid doesn't either.

I started to experiment with paints that would give me the surface that a Polaroid has and then I began to realise why not just emulate that process that the Polaroid uses; pour the resin on, and scrape it off.

What have been the most surprising responses you've received in relation to your works?

What I enjoy most is that people don’t talk about them as if there is a particular sense of composition. They talk about the works in terms of feelings or atmosphere, and I kind of enjoy that response because in a sense, that’s what I’m trying to encourage. What I’m really interested in is what the philosopher Deleuze calls the 'percept', in other words how we gain meaning through experience.

I hope that people come to my works and think, 'I really like this but I kind of get the feeling that there is more to it than just colour'. So they look at the surface, and then they look at the edge. Also the audience's proximity to the work changes what it looks like. You can stand away from the work and just see one big block of colour, but when you go up close you pick up the grain, and it becomes infinite.

Leigh Martin, Loaded. Courtesy: the artist and Jensen Gallery

Do people want to go and touch it?

Yes, there are loads of fingerprints but luckily the resin is really durable. I’m not saying that I encourage it, but it's really interesting that they feel such an impulsive reaction. Nobody has licked it yet.

Amy Yang

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