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by Cathy Byrd
|Gil Martin, "New Work," Oct. 27-Dec. 2, 2000, at Kiang Gallery, 1923 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Ga. 30309.
Georgia painter Gil Martin is inspired by the earth's elements. Swoops of charcoal, drips of golden yellow, terra cotta shapes and gray washes color the textured surfaces of his paintings and drawings.
Geological in nature, these works are layered with artist-induced climatic forces. Martin's studio is outdoors in the North Georgia mountains and he works directly on the ground. He gathers his palette from the earth, harvesting black, green, red, yellow, maroon and gray pigment at the edge of roads and construction sites in Georgia, Oregon, Illinois, Kansas and Arizona. As he composes, he presses against uneven surfaces and patterns that lie beneath his paper or canvas. He draws and paints, washes off pigment, repaints, scrapes and paints again, until the work feels complete.
Martin's process is clearly experimental and based in large part on chance procedures. Tarry black lines push against ochre tones twinkling with mica in #2009 (Martin titles his works with numbers). Composed on an unstretched canvas, #2017 is awash in rust, black and gray and lined with transparent gold tears. A rare figurative reference appears in #2016. On the left, a band of black pushes its way onto a quarter of the canvas where the ghost of a charred limbless tree stands in a river of gray paint. Relaxed arabesques and irregular lines cross the distressed blue gray paper surface of #2007.
These gestural works record a material and spiritual dialectic. Balancing artistic control against natural weathering and building processes, Martin lets intuition and the intrinsic beauty of the environment hold sway. In #2010, for example, black fingerprints mark a rusty backdrop. Tiny veins of water break across the foreground, bursting into root-like blooms edged in gold and gray.
There is a Zen element to the artist's quiet meditations. Martin records the spontaneous forces at play in the natural world, intuitively committing that balance of motion and rest to visual memory. In positive and negative space, rough and smooth surfaces, darkness and light, his atmospheric paintings and drawings evoke a diminishing universe.
CATHY BYRD writes on art from Atlanta.