A Freudian Slip by Paul Martinson

The Creep of Cats by Paul Martinson, Acrylic on board, 2009, 1200mm x 940mm

A Freudian Slip

Paul Martinson

06 October to 25 October 2009


Throughout his lifetime as a painter, Paul Martinson has based his art practice around his love and commitment to drawing, both conceptually and from life. This underlying aspect of his work, in combination with an enduring interest in biology, conservation and environmental issues, became the catalyst for paintings of birdlife for which he is known both locally and internationally.

In 2004 Martinson was commissioned by Te Papa Tongarewa to paint New Zealand’s extinct birdlife, resulting in the publication, Extinct Birds of New Zealand, which was published in 2006. This seminal publication has been acquired by a number of major museums around the world, including; The Natural History Museum, London; Melbourne Museum; and National Audubon Society, USA.

Following the Te Papa project with its reliance on research and objective imagery, Martinson sought a more subjective working style, which has enabled him to focus on personal issues, interests and philosophies in his work. During this time the artist acquainted himself with Freud's concept of the "free flow of ideas" from the subconscious. This idea, with its basis in psychoanalysis, fundamentally informed Psychic Automatism, a method of expression predominantly influencing art and literature in the third decade of the twentieth century. Psychic Automatism subsequently formed the basis of Andre Breton Surrealist's Manifesto of 1924. The Manifesto claimed that "Pure psychic automatism...(meant)...thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside any aesthetic or moral preoccupation.”

While Martinson acknowledges that it is impossible to give oneself over entirely to the "flow of information" from the subconscious uncensored by the intellect, he attempts to work by intuition alone without censoring on the basis of reason, scale or anatomical accuracy. "Automatic drawing for me is a personal thing, but with its origins in the Surrealist movement, it gives me a "sanctioned" right to draw spontaneously without conscious reference to normality, morality and social taboos...it is an attempt to allow a " free flow" of imagery and ideas as a painter. I feel such freedom is an important aspect of personal expression.”

The satisfactory establishment of this intuitive style has also given rise to experimentation in media and materials, with Martinson increasingly working in larger formats on both wood and aluminium. This development has created opportunities to more deeply explore the effects of light in his work. While in general recent works are more subtle in terms of palette and composition, they are more complicated in terms of the artist’s engagement with the complexities of light as a salient feature in itself.

Through this focus and continued experimentation on a larger scale, in works like Creep of Cats subject matter is personified to expose universal dichotomies such as power and manipulation; innocence and cynicism; delusion and certainty due to the combined context of realism with surrealism. Thus, an added psychological edge has become evident, enhancing engagement with the work on conceptual, aesthetic and emotional levels.

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