The brilliant thing about Harry Martin’s Adrift exhibition is that he has managed to paint images that are at once abstract and yet warm and familiar to our senses. Through earthbound colours and with curves and clefts that mirror the natural world, Martin’s canvases are alive with organic energy and the longer they are contemplated, the greater the depth that they reveal to the viewer.
Meditation is an important part of Martin’s daily life and it has come to be a guiding force in his artistic process. At the launch of the exhibition, he led visitors in a short guided meditation. “Meditation is the basic ground from which I work, it’s about tapping into this way of seeing the world that breaks down boundaries between yourself, other people and the world.” he says, outlining the philosophy behind his art work, “it’s about cultivating this basic sense of appreciating things as they are, and that’s become quite important for the work to emerge out of that awareness and then it becomes much more spontaneous and natural.” Martin was helped with meditation practice through the writings of Chögyam Trungpa in the book True Perception, that described the process of Dharma Art, a way of approaching art creation while downplaying the artist’s ego. “This whole practice is about questioning our fixed way of seeing ourselves in relation to the world, we have this habit of seeing ourselves as very solid and separate from the outside world, and what the meditation practice is trying to do is soften that so that we begin to see ourselves and our relation to the world as this fluid process, getting into a Dhamma mindset, is something that the paintings are trying to encourage.”
we have this habit of seeing ourselves as very solid and separate from the outside world, and what the meditation practice is trying to do is soften that
There is certainly something about Martin’s paintings that encourages wider reflection. There is a dreamlike quality to the images and the layers, while complex, seem to fall into one another, so it becomes impossible to see where one begins and the other ends. There are images here, trees, branches, cobwebs, cellular structures and wrinkles. There is dynamism too; lines of light seen through a bus window, leaves shaking in the wind, and geometric shapes seem to appear from nowhere and what had appeared as flat suddenly becomes something you can step into. Despite the kaleidoscopic effect and the tangle of layers, up close and in person with the images, the overall feeling is never disorientating or abrasive, but one of quiet and comfortable intimacy.
'Adrift' is at the West Bridgford library until February 19th. All profits from sales will go towards the Mission Lifeforce campaign.