The blue, brown or black lines and partly obliterated shapes are a response to many things. For example, the shape of a field, the ghost marks of old trackways, enclosures, the reworking of land and so on. There is also the architectural space of an Anglo Saxon chapel – all at once small, grand and intimate. The imagined spaces evoked by music, poetry or a psalm can also act as a starting point for a sequence of work.
‘I thought of walking round and round a space
Utterly empty, utterly a source
Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place
In our front hedge above the wallflowers.’
This quote from Clearances In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984 by Seamus Heaney encapsulates Tony Martin’s sparse enclosing blue lines. These few words have become almost a manifesto for him. Martin’s early work post-college was almost entirely figurative and landscape based. Most, apart from the drawings, has been destroyed. He still looks to landscape, still valuing the idea that fields contain the history of their past, however there are now other more significant references which are themselves underpinned and connected by a personal “theological perspective”. Poetry, Architecture and Music have in common a sense of space, a sense of interval. The silence, the pauses between notes or words, the interruptions of walls and doors between rooms are as important as the sounds, the phrases and the void. It is these things that Tony Martin explores, investigates and captures in his line drawings.
Six years ago during a printmaking session he was attempting to get the effect of aquatint when he had a moment of revelation. Reaching out at random he picked up a blue conté crayon and drew a line around the edge of a piece of absorbent Fabriano printmaking paper. Thus began an obsession with line, margins, edges and pentimenti, an Italian word used by Art Historians to describe the corrections made to Renaissance paintings. Martin quotes Leonardo, “Drawing is the art of correction”, and he pursues this in the complex process of paring down, correcting, rubbing out which occurs until he achieves a resolution which satisfies him. “I keep reworking them until they come to a place that I am happy with. I have an internal sense of when a line is right”. The whole history of each drawing is present on the paper. The distinctive soft, woven quality of his chosen surface, printmaking as opposed to drawing paper, allows traces of his obliterated marks to be retained creating a ghost image of what has taken place. The line and the space it contains are the most important elements of these small square drawings.