Tar-hee, 100cm x 140cm, acrylic on canvas, June 2021.
Firmly rooted in Irish myth and folklore, Martin’s recent work continues to advance her investigation of the disconnection between humanity and the natural and liminal worlds. Martin’s interest in her native culture has been prevalent in her practice, whether commenting on the impact of faith and belief on Irish society or implementing traditional iconography into her printmaking practice. The fish in particular, a recurring and mutating motif throughout Irish history, sometimes symbolising rebirth, fertility and wisdom, is prominent in Martin’s paintings and prints, and the species makes a more unconventional reappearance in Heterotopia.
In Heterotopia we are introduced to a fantastical world neither utopian nor dystopian, where figures resembling organic fish-forms and aquatic bestial hybrids, wander through a lush and vibrant landscape, dead eyed yet theatrically surrendering to their new existence, polluted by humanity. Heterotopias are worlds within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside. While Martin’s paintings appear playful and theatrical, this belies the serious undertones which address the Anthropocene and our mortal relationship with the liminal worlds. By highlighting our weakening connection to the natural world, Martin draws attention to the noxious impact of human activity; never before has nature so much needed to be sheltered from humanity. Perhaps she is posing the possibility that an increasing societal disconnection has transformed us to a more simple state of existence. Resembling a distorted Darwinian theory of evolution, we are presented with the opposite – a theory of devolution where these fishlike hybrids are secretly advancing among us without our knowledge. Such metamorphosis is a primordial theme in every cultures’ folklore, as there are stories of figures who shape shift in order to go unnoticed in society or to cross boundaries between the real and the imaginary. The only way to discover the true identity of such a creature was to pose a riddle, known as a Ceist an Taibhse, or the ghost’s question, to check if a stranger encountered at sea or in a remote place was human or otherworldly. In Heterotopia, it is unclear who exactly is posing the question.
Playing with this balance between comical and ominous these entities appear as image stills perhaps captured from a movie directed by Hieronymus Bosch had he been a cinematographer. But are they on earth or some netherworld, existing in some parallel reality where every trace of our human occupation has been deleted. With echoes of Munch their cyclopian gaze holds ours, drawing us in…but what if anything are they trying to communicate? Within this ambiguity we are given space to daydream, to imagine such a world and to wonder at how we arrived here. Like Ernst and the surrealists, Martin chooses to deliver this dire message with a light and comic touch through exploring identity and fantasy through the figures and contexts she creates, a kind of fish gut served with ice cream.
2000 Born in Dublin, Ireland.
Education and Qualifications
2018-21. B.A. Hons Fine Art Painting, University of Brighton.
Selected Group Shows
2021 FUSE, Brighton Regency Town House, Brighton.
2020 Face to Face, Edward Street Building, Brighton.
2019 Painting Festival 01, University of Brighton, Brighton.
2021 Hu[Manned] Mission, Lumen Gallery, London.