CURATORS Stuart Shepherd, Jessica Reid
Martin Thompson has existed on the fringes of the mainstream art scene—and of mainstream society. However, he and his work are gaining recognition.
The Wellington outsider artist creates a digital look by hand. He draws on graph paper using fine-tipped ink pens, filling in or leaving blank each one millimetre square according to mathematical principles, to generate intricate patterns—creating positive and negative variants. His works look like crude computer graphics, with his graph squares recalling pixels or tapestry stitches. When Thompson makes mistakes in drawings, he repairs the patterns, cutting out the offending areas with a scalpel and inserting and sellotaping little pieces of patterned graph paper. (He sometimes displays the backs of his drawings to reveal his skilful repairs.) Thompson doesn’t title his works, and gives his shows only basic descriptive titles. He says: ‘I like to let the works speak for themselves. I don’t want to have a title that sounds stereotyped or hackneyed like it’s been said a million times before.’ Likewise, he tends not to date his works, giving them a timeless quality.
In this show, Thompson takes his practice in a new direction. He scans his drawings and digitally composites them checkerboard style into dazzling large wallpaper-scale prints, creating woozy optical effects. In the past, his drawings have been small and monochromatic. Now they sing with a second colour—and at scale.