Housed in a converted 1920s propeller factory, Will Martyr's Deptford studio is spacious and bathed in light streaming in from five metre windows, naturally complementing the sunny scenes depicted in his monumental paintings.
Martyr’s exhibition, Fathoms, consisted exclusively of circular tondos, necessitating the use of the words “clockwise” and “anticlockwise” whenever they are carefully taken off or hung back on the walls of his Deptford studio. These works are so large that they warrant having not one, but two collapsable scaffolding units at hand to assist access to the upper reaches of the canvases.
Martyr’s choice of acrylic paint as a medium is advantageous with its near-instantaneous drying time, no less encouraged by the current heatwave in the capital, so much so that his latest painting It’s All Going to be Magnificent was completed only the night before our visit. The practicality of the acrylic’s fast drying times is integral to his production of signature colour-block shapes- which sometimes require over eight layers of paint in order to achieve such an intense luminosity. Distinctive green frog tape, which Martyr uses to mask off shapes on the canvas before paintings, are ubiquitous when looking around his studio.
Unified in scale, shape, and style, the paintings in Fathoms also all lack human figures, encouraging the viewer to inhabit the paintings with their own projections, leading them through an introspective journey through their memories. Martyr evokes a seductive yet challenging memory for the viewer, portraying scenes which remind us of the playful essence of our childhood holidays and our dreams, one day, of living the luxurious lifestyle of the superrich. In some scenes, we are transported to the poolside, where a bright beachball bobs atop the rippling meniscus of the turquoise water, and sun chairs line the poolside like an empty amphitheatre. In others, the viewer is placed atop a mountain ski resort, on a bluebird day, corduroy snow still fresh and untouched.
Martyr wants you to feel joy, to reminisce, and to fantasise when you look at his paintings. The vistas read like lively vintage postcards radiating with bright colour, as if to say, “wish you were here” — and oh, do we wish. But for now, mental teleportation is satisfying enough.
Fathoms was on show at Unit London, 3 Hanover Square, W1S 1HD inn September 2018. Studio photography and videography by Lucy Emms (@lucy.emms).