THE ESCAPE ARTIST

JUNE 23, 2014

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By E. S. Jones

‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us’. Winston Churchill

Will Martyr’s stylish paintings highlight the fascinating influence of architecture on the mind. The images in his new exhibition Stay Until Tomorrow read like a catalogue of structures designed to bring about a sense of well-being. As the environments we occupy are processed and interpreted by all our senses, they inevitably contribute to identity and an overall satisfaction with daily life. Although we’ve become cynical we still secretly long for something gloriously unexpected, that the rabbit will be pulled from the hat, ears and whiskers intact.

In our modern culture, beauty has been replaced by functionality; darker and uglier concrete blocks overshadow our streets, contributing to vague feelings of claustrophobia. Contrary to the ubiquitous slogan, it does not feel like we are ‘worth it’, but just another cog trapped in a vast grey, windowless machine. These bigger and better and taller Towers of Babel are monuments to power- but leave us isolated and straitjacketed. Somewhere we’ve misplaced the importance of horizontal breathing space, under the suffocating desires for the vertical.

Martyr’s paintings such as ‘Well To Do’ and ‘It’s Only Us’ are a real release for your tired eyes. Here, from a relaxed and reclined view, the world finally looks ‘right’. Things are aligned, fitting together seamlessly; edges are smoothed out, all shapes are levelled and evenly spaced. The canvases feel familiar, with sheets of light softly slanting through glass, hushing your jangled nerves as though you were stood under the arching ceiling of a cathedral. Inside is like outside: the roof as endless as the sky, walls billowing out like sails in the wind, quietly drifting out upon the grassy sea. The sweeping lines are reminiscent of rolling hills and distant horizons, even though there are no trees left to speak of.

This artist’s technique is both architect and magician; every precise brushstroke is a sleight of hand to lull and seduce. We know that there is more here than meets the eye, but find comfort in the illusion. He does not attempt cerebral explanations of architectural psychology, but hints at our deep seated longings for freedom with his visions of the perfect tomorrow. These are truly bewitching blueprints, designed to restore connection between the inner and outer world.

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