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Martyn Brewster

October 11, 2011

Coastal Light Works on paper No. 7

Martyn Brewster spent the summer  of 2011 drawing intensively. In a new departure he worked indoors rather than going out and making observational drawings in the landscape. Sketchbooks of all shapes and sizes are piled in his studio containing hundreds of little drawings in pen and wash, which tumble from page to page of the thick creamy paper. Although suggestive of boats, islands or still lives these are linear abstract forms which generate a great sense of space and are an immensely rich source for the small works set out on tables and the larger canvases that lean against the walls. A recurring motif is the square, which Brewster says is “a device that I have used all my life and which now underpins work which is much softer”. Over the years he has often veered away from using blocks because they are associated with artists like William Scott, Hans Hofmann or Josef Albers but ultimately he feels that you have to go with what works for you within the context of your personal visual language.

Coastal Light Works on paper No. 15

Coastal Light Works on paper No. 11

On a table adjacent to the sketchbooks are a group of small works in acrylic and collage.  Dissatisfied with the flatness of acrylic he started adding collage and he has now moved this way of working into larger paintings on canvas. He is somewhat surprised to find himself using acrylic but is finding that he is revelling in its potential: the looseness of the paint and the transparency, which produces beautiful watercolour effects. Brewster views his most recent work in terms of three distinct strands but linked by his perennial modes of enquiry. “Rich oil paintings; drawings in their own right; then acrylic with collage added, to give a little bit of texture to the paleish colours and greys.” His abstract works are rooted in an exploration of the landscape and informed by his process of moving from drawing through monoprint to canvas, following line, form and colour.   His work is thematic and numbered within a particular theme.  Viewed as a group reading from image to image one can see his thought processes as he inches forward moving the ideas on from work to work.  Martyn’s most recent paintings, the result of an incredibly focused period of work, has a new freedom and a lightness of touch which is reflected in a change of palette to paler hues which make the intensely-coloured small shapes sing out. He still continues to work with his signature strong colours in some works: vibrant passionate reds with daring touches of purple or hauntingly beautiful, dark crepuscular blues. He no longer feels compelled to lose the underpainting as the work progresses, which leads to softer edged shapes and a greater sense of fluidity. This new approach is evident in the recent “Coastal Light” series in which he exploits the sense of light and space which he experiences living on the edge of the sea.

Coastal Light No. 15

Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm

Coastal Light No. 24

Oil on canvas 50 x 50 cm

Coastal Light No. 18

Oil on canvas 150 x 150 cm

The intensity of the drawing experience and the large number of drawings which he completed before moving into paint has led him to look again at the divisions between drawing and painting. The importance of the small sketchbook drawings and works on card both as compositional studies and as works in their own right is leading him to consider the genesis of the works on canvas. He has moved into colour because it is such an integral part of his practice but he still has a sense that essentially he is drawing but with colour rather than monochrome. Both the oil and the acrylic as media are now working so well that he feels that they are almost interchangeable. He says, “Whether they were drawings, or big oil paintings, or acrylic, or works with collage, there was a consistency coming out in the work which was very satisfying”.

Coastal Light Works on paper No. 17

Coastal Light No.26

Acrylic on canvas 20 x 20 cm

© Fiona Robinson 2011

Martyn Brewster’s exhibition ‘Coastal Light’ is at The Arthouse Gallery, Bournemouth until 18 October.  He has been represented for many years by The Jill George Gallery but is now represented by Waterhouse & Dodd, Cork Street, London, UK and his first solo show with his new gallery will take place in February 2012.

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