I haven’t seen a solo show of Julian Martin’s work but at the many group shows of Arts Project artists, I find myself gravitating toward his drawings. They offer clarity among the talking and wine sipping. The thick pastel colour on paper creates a velvety surface that absorbs and softens my intense art gaze the way a Rothko painting might. It appears so clear, everyday objects reduced and flattened, their shapes bent or warped to become signs and symbols revealing the mystery of man-made forms seen through the eyes of a very sincere artist.
Julian has worked at Arts Project over twenty years and exhibited extensively here and abroad. Early work was easily recognisable for the recurring smiling cartoon man with the triangle shaped nose who stares so excitedly from the page. Arts Project kindly let me sift through the drawers of Julian’s work in the stockroom, while Penelope Hunt revealed a little about his working process. Before starting a new series of work, Julian will reduce his palette to just black and white before introducing his refined choice of colour. A mound of pastel dust forms around the table and floor as Julian rubs the colour into the paper. Finished pieces are carefully stored as the pastel dust can move and smudge easily.
The last year has been a particularly productive year, producing a drawer full of A3-size works that steer away from human forms toward everyday objects: coffee cups, high-heeled shoes, headphones and hair brushes. The simplicity of the work quietens my mind but a thought did come that this is the place Matisse was arriving at toward the end of his life. I felt truly energised spending a morning with the pure colour and shape of Julian’s world.
Julian Martin, Arts Project Australia, Melbourne, March 2012.