‘Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision
Blue, blue, electric blue
That’s the colour of my room
Where I will live
Pale blinds drawn all day
Nothing to do, nothing to say
I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Drifting into my solitude,
over my head
Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision’
– David Bowie, Sound and Vision 1977
Leigh Martin’s work has long mapped the sonic. His paintings record the pulse and scratch of vision. Martin’s Dissolve paintings made in the early 1990s implied in their repetitious waves, a nigh-on silent soundscape, one where the glitches and inflections of tone are suggested in the tremor and vibrato of touch and its liaison with material.
Martin’s work feels much less about the synesthesia that fascinated Kandinsky, nor the flamboyant theatre of Yves Klein’s Monotone Symphony, rather his paintings seem to want to lasso the sonic texture that is on the sensory periphery. The Dissolve paintings were made in a single attenuated sitting – a kind of one note, or one glitch performance.
Since the Dissolve works, Martin has gone on to make paintings whose series titles, Loaded, or Shallow Depth for example, might equally describe a quality of sound, as much as of vision. Over the years they have differed vastly in their chromatic intensity, their viscosity, and their scale, but each of his works has its own volume and timbre.
These new works all titled Mass continue his interest in the way that colour accumulates, and pigment coalesces around the subtlest glitches on the surface. Martins suggest that.. “in essence an interest in how the material nature of objects and their inherent surfaces, along with their recognizable or implied origins, affect the human subject. The repetitive warp and weft of the linen collects residues of paint producing subtle grids. At differing proximities this grid-like pattern, or sequencing of paint, residues reads as a grain. This merging of linen and paint, form a visual register, a specific optical frequency. This is an optical frequency that registers movement, whilst emphasizing, and simultaneously undermining the material and visual mass of both the paint and the linen substrate.”
Whilst I would not suggest that Martin’s work is increasingly minimal – the word itself already largely drained of meaning – his work might be seen to be approaching a newer, more distilled clarity. The trajectory of his recent paintings perhaps signals his interest in “black noise”. This is not just the banishment of white noise but is a point where the frequency can no longer be heard…. statistical silence.