Ned Martin is a former hyperrealistic painter based in Manhattan whose practice took a sharp turn after the death of his wife in a tragic accident. Struggling with painful emotions and wishing to escape reality, he retreated into his art, diving into pure form and color. He found that painting abstractly allowed him to experience a type of catharsis. “Unlike realism, abstraction has few boundaries,” Martin said. “Within a world of painting nothing, you are simultaneously painting everything. I had been pulled from the relatively safe haven of realism where there are parameters set, where emotional hand holding abounds.”
This shift from realism to abstraction has led to an emotive body of work which combines his former methods with his new explorations—paintings such as Industrial (2014) have elements resembling metal or architecture, but are at their heart borne from geometry comprised of sweeping brushwork. His “Fractals” series, rendered in jewel-like colors, has occasional hints of branch or tree-like forms, but also the rigid order of pixels or Chuck Close-esque grids; his paintings retain the traces of their creator bringing his emotional state to an organized place in a process of self-understanding.
Having undertaken an extensive study of painting that led him from his native Virgin Islands, to Florence, Hawaii, Boston, and now Saratoga Springs, David Hill takes the traditional forms of landscape painting and offers a new perspective. His poignant natural scenes, more zoomed-in than in traditional plein air painting, attempt to locate the “soul” of the landscape. In works such as Poseidon (2013) and Contrast (2013), Hill identifies a precise moment of sublime form in nature, freezing it to explore its potential in terms of composition and depth. The final touch is given when, towards the end of his painting process, he abandons painting from nature and instead pulls from his memory, offering a personality to what would otherwise be an automatic process.
As Martin’s abstract oils are displayed alongside Hill’s realistic nature scenes, their diverging styles point towards how different pathways in life have allowed each artist to develop a unique form of representation from a similar starting point of photorealistic work. As each artist takes inspiration from natural form, he liberates his process from reality, allowing escape from pure representation into the ether of creativity.
“Nature Transformed” is on view at Sorelle Gallery, New Canaan, Connecticut, May 7–Jun. 2, 2015.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory