The Art of Fred Martin
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Paintings February 2007

#2, February 2007

All paintings are acrylic on paper, 44 x 30 inches
unless otherwise noted.

Scroll down for the paintings, click the images for larger views.


#2, February 2007


#3, February 2007.


#4, February 2007.

#5, February 2007.


#6, February 2007.


#7, February 2007


#8, February 2007

#9, February 2007



From my artist's talk at the preview of my exhibition "Fred Martin, Works of the 21st Century"
at Gallery DeNovo in Sun Valley, Idaho, February 15, 2007

A few notes about my work, and then if you would for you to ask me, tell me what you think…

And, to begin in a rather academic way (I have spent most of my daytime life as an academic… though for these last few years I have taught mostly at night—as I tell the students, “at night the trash of the day falls away and you can do something serious’)—yes, it’s in a rather academic way I want to talk to you here for a moment about the subject and medium, the form and content of my work.

First, the subject…
I have given most of the works titles—
Often the titles refer to the things or feelings or events I had that suggested the works in the first place. These things, usually, we call the subject, as in, here, an Easter Lily, a mountain, a bunch of grass or the story of Marsyas the satyr.

Then, the medium…
I use acrylic on paper—
I like to paint every night and nowadays very often early in the morning after the every night, and because I have new ideas to paint from almost every night, I need a new surface to paint on and canvas is too much bother to stretch and takes too much room to store. So, I use paper because I need to make a lot of paintings; and I use acrylic because it can be thin like a breath, can run with the beauty of oil stains in the sunshine of a rainy street, can be thick like the trunk of a tree or sensual like the skin of one’s lover.

Then, the method of using the medium and the forms that method gives…
I work flat rather than on the wall as most painters do, standing at a large (4’ x 6’) table. It’s in the center of the studio, and centered in front of me as I enter the studio. Rather romantically, it’s like an altar, the painting in the center like a Buddha statue on the altar in a Tibetan temple, the paint and tools scattered around on the table like the offerings of fruit and flowers, little pictures of the Dalai Lama and coins on the Tibetan altar. My painting and my tools of making, their Buddha and their tools of worship.

Most of these paintings were made by spraying water on the paper, spreading it with broad and invisible strokes from a very wide and dry brush, then with a little mouth atomizer, spraying first a warm earth color and then a dark on those invisible strokes—in this way my breath revealed the heretofore invisible strokes my arm had made. Then, looking to see what was there and remembering what was the subject feeling I had first intended, beginning the conversation between me and painting in progress that would at last reveal to me what would be for me the painting’s true content.

And so, now, the content.
The true content. The true content for me and the true content for you, and that these are different. For most of my life, this difference has bothered me exceedingly. And I would write upon the painting what it was about so as to be sure everyone would get my message—and then critics would complain that my work was “over determined,” and people would complain that I was getting in the way of their appreciation of the painting itself. And then I would complain that—as I said once in a public lecture with an audience of several hundred people—“Here I’m on fire and all you want is pretty smoke rings.”

Well, what about that? These paintings around us are, indeed, the products of the fire in me, and were built in the way that I have described to contain that fire. But that’s my fire, not yours. And when we see and respond to any work of art—a painting or a sculpture, a cathedral or a dance—we are responding to the feelings captured there, not to the stories, the subjects, which, especially for ancient and/or non-Western art, we cannot even know. The feelings captured in the shapes, the forms of the medium—paint or stone or dance—it’s the shapes holds the artist’s feelings about the subject, and it’s the shapes and their colors that will hold our feelings about our subjects. The artist has been dead a hundred or a thousand years; the shapes he made to hold his feeling live on to hold ours.

Or, put another way. My wife and I go to the opera a lot. There is an aria—Madame Butterfly sings “One fine day…” but it’s in Italian and I don’t understand a thing; Mimi says, “Call me Mimi…” but I don’t know what she’s talking about. There’s that father comes to beg Camille to give up her affair with his son so as not to destroy the family honor—and I don’t understand a word of it. And, now that there’s supertitles and I can read what they are saying, it reads pretty dumb. But the music of the voice—the sensuous form—it carries all the feeling of longing, and that feeling becomes mine.

So, it has come to me, for the artist the work of art is like a vase of his flowers—and oh my how lovely he thinks it is. The flowers die, he dies and the vase ends up in a junk shop (my wife loves junk shops). You see the vase and think, “Hey, my flowers would look pretty good in that vase. I’ll take it home and treasure it for mine.” I have put the flowers of my fire, my emotion and aesthetic pleasure into these forms. To the strength I have given them, they are yours for the flowers of your fire, your emotion and aesthetic pleasure.


Directory to all Fred Martin's Art.