OPENING: THURSDAY, 31 AUGUST, 5.00-7.30PM
See a selection of available works by the artist here.
For many years, Jason Martin has mastered his own specific language, immediately recognizable and assimilable: these are paintings made with great thicknesses of pictorial paste characterized by mostly monochrome surfaces and apparent incisions or grooves that generate fluid landscapes generally geometric or eddies and layers of very shapeless material thicknesses, coagulated at different points. Yet each work is a new discovery, concrete proof that the golden streak has never been exhausted and that in his case there are still many avenues to explore. The greatest impetus to procrastinate the end of a path, or a cycle, comes from his unsatisfied search for something even more novel and different from previous trials. In this new exhibition, too, the inexhaustible desire to extend the horizons of pictorial language prevails, risking beyond all previous achievements, accepting the possibility of failure and fall, in order to surprise us with unpredictable and convincing pictorial variations.
Jason Martin has a kind of boldness and innate artistic curiosity that drives him to probe the odds of success to the point where the gamble opens the door to as generous as it is unexpected new result. As we look through his catalog, we will discover how from work to work he goes experimenting with the limits and potential of surface and material, color and line. After all, this is a very difficult and decidedly modernist endeavor: to combine classicism and the avant-garde, that is, naturalism and abstraction, seeking a possible balance between formalism and expressionism, between primary forms and the communication of emotions and sensations. In a sense, Jason is showing us that the life of painting depends on the interweaving of randomness and unpredictability, of rigorous preparation and imponderable adventure, of permanent patterns and rules, of inopinable and unsettling choices that are generated freely and autonomously with respect to the conceptual control of reality. That rigid and sometimes stolid claim of human reason, which so many problems produced in modernism. Jason with his work on the surface, with his choice to act on rapped and bulky material thicknesses, even to launch himself into physical rituals - a mixture of combat and dance - conjugates the rational sphere and that of irrationality, the Dionysian and the Apollonian, in other words the beautiful and the sublime. And he seeks no compromise; on the contrary, he rejects it by taking every risk.
His goal is a point of balance between the parts in play, that formal result that provokes a beautiful and perturbing emotion, that perturbed elegance that makes the specific qualities or peculiarities of a sign or form not give way in relation to the rest. From this very balance of contrasts comes our fulfillment. While we recognize rigorous compositional structures that can be rationally interpreted, we are amazed and attracted by formal performances that excite our imagination, stir sensations of the deep, bring up reminiscences, exaltation for the marvelous landscapes offered by nature and the cosmos.
His extraordinary pictorial works are in fact the result of psycho-physical actions that change the surface of the painting into visual and emotional intensities. Jason disrupts his monochromatic backgrounds with performative rituals by placing himself in front of the aluminum supports hanging on the walls. Sometimes he even goes running, projects himself toward the work, caresses it and glides over it, reducing the distance between his own body, his unconscious and the surface of the painting as much as possible. The paint material is spread on the support with gestures that modify the surface and create a series of geometric or naturalistic configurations. The material is so thick and condensed that his paintings are very similar to sculptures. To be correct we should speak of high reliefs. The color goes beyond the edge of the painting; it seems destined to slide toward the ground. There is a feeling that the whole surface can still move and change in appearance. We cannot fix a definitive form, even when the image seems to stand on an underlying geometric structure. The thickness is never flat, drawn out like an inert, opaque surface, the surface is never polished, and although his works are in fact abstract, it is not possible to close the game in these terms. For it is rather a matter of shapeless surfaces structured on geometric bases, decidedly agitated, moved, even swaying, and in many cases the painting appears like a carded fabric or a plot of earth turned over by a force or current nested beneath the sod of the field. Of marks and folds, lines and filaments of varying size or direction, give rise in many cases to images rich in temperament and personality that stand out from the colder, more inexpressive images of certain abstract or minimal language. The heart, corporeality, that mixture of drive and instinct, play a decisive role in this sense: "In my works, color is essentially structure and not decoration, the material becomes visceral, erotic, experimental," Martin argues.
The work on surface and thickness also has consequences for color temperature and light refraction. There is always something that disturbs the composure, smoothness and uniformity, something that disrupts the rigid and reassuring tactics of pure formalism. As if the nature of painting is the realm of the untamable and its creatures rebel with their preponderant energy against every rational schematism, every conceptual cage. Matter, subjected to gravity, tends inexorably to move, to yield and fall from top to bottom, sliding or resisting vertically, dragging and solidifying broad horizontal plates. The painting is still a world in the making, its genesis not yet completed. We have the perception of a form in transformation, of something placed on the line of becoming. Yet what we see and appreciate possesses all the intrinsic qualities of something accomplished, of a form without any need for adjustment and refinement. It is not a matter of formal compromise.
Jason claims to arrive at the coexistence of opposing forces, that disorienting harmony that is achieved through antithetical decisions. But that, the artist would say, is life at its best. The operation is, therefore, a perfect and always unexpected combination of conceptually predisposed strategies and psychologically liberated forces, the testing of structures and drives. The interdependence of action and matter generates an image of a non-figurative kind, which expresses itself through a formless language, in an eloquent layering of preordained gestures and randomness, of control and spontaneity. An image that is accomplished and at the same time dynamic, almost in the process of evolving and transforming. The painting is always proof that life can defeat death and that the forces of the unconscious are ultimately and almost always our guarantee of freedom from a constricting and repetitive reality.
In many of the works presented in this exhibition, there is something epic. It seems to force the boundaries in the direction of the sublime. His idiosyncrasy toward an art of formal smoothness and self-referential language emerges even more sharply. The surface trembles, vibrates, is totally pervaded by a physical energy that seems to correspond to our innermost drives and emotions. Without dramatizing, however, without exaggerating. Harmony must win over everything. The beauty of the balance between tensions and structures must not give way to the cacophony of certain kneaded and messy paintings of color. Yet there is something epic about them. The beauty of these works lies in their sublime appearance. It seems to me that Martin's visual quest has been directed with even greater determination toward the kind of aesthetic experience that arises with the stimulus of extreme and conflicting imaginations; such as those, for example, that arise from the clash between materials and processes, between laws of nature and art. In his case, the pictorial actions come into contention with the force of gravity, or the forward or downward projections of the pictorial masses seem to be determined by forces fighting each other, like light and darkness, like consciousness and the unconscious. Look now at Rousseau 's Nightmare of 2012. Many artists have been interested in nightmarish night visions. Among the most famous of course is worth mentioning the famous Nightmare made by Johann Heinrich Füssli, in 1781. Here Martin's work wants to dialogue with this kind of Romantic painting. But not in terms of iconographic citationism. There is not necessarily a need to bring back in figurative terms the material of which the nightmares are made- Painting is sufficient unto itself. In Surrender the surface forged in gold has a wrinkled, almost rocky thickening, and the painting seems to have been extracted from a cave of blinding beauty; it could be a nugget shred, a sliver of meteorite. The splendor of gold is opposed by thickened, congealed matter that seems to want to suck luminescence into its own spasm. Loci of 2023, can be mistaken for a mudslide that has just descended into the valley, so much so that the painting appears mixed with the clay of a muddy ground. There are conflicting and opposing forces that might act convulsively and haphazardly. But the artist is there for it, controlling the destructive eagerness, daring a dance to the point where he is face to face with extreme risk, with the extreme limit of tension and rest, between stillness and fluidity, between harmony and cacophony, between resistance and abandon. And this is a way of the sublime. A way of access into the magma of the unconscious and nature.
Text by Sergio Risaliti.