Image above: Martin King tree of life, unsuccessful species 2021 etching, drypoint, chine collé and hand colouring edition 3 168 x 165 cm
Martin King is widely acknowledged as one of the leading printmakers in Australia, and his work occupies an important place in printmaking in the country.
Martin’s upcoming exhibition at Australian Galleries, ‘Strangerlands’ continues themes the artist has been developing in recent work; questions of how we perceive nature, and the alliances and disjunctions we create at the point of intersection with nature. In the following artist feature, Martin discusses his recent work, his artistic practice, and artistic influences.
Image above: Martin King strangerlands II, after W Strutt, Black Thursday 1851 2021 graphite, gouache and gold leaf on drafting film, watercolour on paper 150 x 226 cm
You have an upcoming exhibition at Australian Galleries. What have you been working on recently, and what can we expect to see in the show?
Some large graphite drawings, some large watercolour drawings, a series of graphite drawings and watercolours based on Australian stamps, new etchings and bookworks.
The large graphite and watercolour drawings and bookworks are based on studies and photographs I have made in ancient Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) and Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) forests in Victoria.
The drawings include references to past representations of landscape, popular culture and ancient manuscripts, such as John Glover’s The River Nile (1837), the Talking Heads Fear of Music (1979) album cover, and an Iranian illustrated manuscript from the 15th century. The work develops the imaginative possibilities of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ histories.
Image below: Martin King endangered species stamp series NOT ME 2021 graphite and watercolour on drafting film and paper 87 x 75 cm
The title of your exhibition is ‘Strangerlands’. Can you provide some insight into the meaning of this?
The title came to me last year. Like most of us, I was working away in a confined physical and geographical space, due to the prolonged period of restrictions. ‘Strangerlands’ is the imaginative world beyond the limits of lockdown.
You work in drawing, watercolour and print. What attracts you to each, and in what ways do the visual qualities of each technique affect your imagery?
All these mediums, in one way or another, slightly transform the marks I make. Graphite shimmers and catches light on the drafting film, watercolour spreads and dissolves into a translucent skin, and etching physically embeds the inked marks on, and into the paper.
Unlike many artists, you often leave your works undated. Why is this?
I often use etched images in different iterations over a period.
What prompted you to begin using books in your work?
I have always had an interest in picture books and artist books. Books can illustrate many ideas or elaborate on a single idea.
Do you have a favourite artist or artwork that inspires you? What else influences your practice?
I have always been drawn to artists whose work crosses or covers different processes; drawing, painting, prints, animation etc.
Strangerlands – A Film About Artist Martin King in His Studio
Martin King’s upcoming exhibition opens on Tuesday 3 August at Australian Galleries, Melbourne. For more information, click here.