2008 – 2010

Below: image and text from unsuccessful Engine Room Proposal (2009)

This work continues an investigation of painterly mark making.   The work intervenes with the surfaces of the gallery, embedding itself within the appearance of the gallery in its empty state.  The blankness of the space is overcome by a process of materialising, muddling and messing the surfaces.  This casual and incidental messing will inform the more deliberate, layered compositions of the wall and floor collages which activate surfaces with obvious, and not so obvious, fluid artifice.

In this work the gallery is a site for activity.  The works create a record of unwitnessed incident within the space, an event of quiet, cataclysmic, travelling.  This travelled space presents a history of things seen or unseen, false and true documents that can claim attention or be ignored.

The work visits traditions of painterly events without irony.  It is a happily serious painterly endeavour, seeking out and recreating the environmental poetics of the space.  Potential for imaginative, meditative engagement emerges from the perimeters.


Below: studio work on paper and wall






wall drawing 9

Above: Untitled, studio work, 2010. Acrylic wash on studio wall

Below: text and image from unsuccessful Arthouse proposal, 2010

For the Arthouse building I propose a wall-work installation responding to its late19th century origins, and the relationship of this time period to developments within painterly abstraction.  The wall-work would engage with the architecture by using paint to intervene with its surfaces.  Painterly gesture and mark-making related to vocabularies of early abstraction will be layered into compositions which activate the space as a site for engagement. The colour palette of the work would use strategies from 19th century plein air painting to consider the immediate environment of the space and its past use.  Colour, light and tone would be observed, sampled and mimicked from the building, its immediate environment, and informed by further research into its past.

The Arthouse building at number 3 Haven Road connects us to the rich history of late19th century Nelson and the development of its “post-colonial” infrastructure.  J.H Cock and Co., who owned the building, were busy merchants supplying the Nelson region with a multitude of consumables and services, including insurance and ferry tickets.  They ran a wholesale warehouse on Bridge St, and were1/3rd owners of the Anchor Line steam ships and ferries.  (Anchor Line later came to run the Wahine and its sister ferries.)  The Cock family originally came to Nelson for Cock Senior to manage the Dun Mountain Railway. When it failed, he left New Zealand, but his son stayed on to develop Cock and Co.  It is possible to imagine rich stories of how the supplies and associated services from Cock and Co were used toward the development of Nelson in the late 19th century.

It is this point in Nelson’s history that this proposal develops from.  As Cock and Co. were establishing themselves, the late 19th century in Europe saw the effects of industrialization and the beginnings of Modernism.  In art, the impressionists and plein air painters were challenging the conventions of painting, and their ways of working considered the lived urban as well as rural environment, and its sites of social interaction, including architecture.  Artists and thinkers were identifying the power of architecture within urban space.  Haussmann’s prescriptive modernization of urban Paris throughout the mid to late 19th century, and the subsequent adaptation and loosening of his model, developed awareness of this.

At the same time as these developments in architecture, the development of tins and tubes of industrial paint in the 1870s created a democratization of painting, interior design, decoration, and colour.  Paint was no longer a specialist product that required hand mixing of pigment and binder.  Colour became highly accessible, and merchants like Cock and Co. could supply an array of colour.[1]

In painting artists had created alternate visual languages, like impressionism and pointillism, which set the scene for abstraction.  Easily portable tubes of colour enabled the careful observation of light and colour by plein air painters and the impressionists.  This led to new knowledge of the optical qualities of colour and light, and artists soon began to subvert and extend this observed colour within post impressionism and abstraction.  Nelsonian Dorothy Kate Richmond adopted the plein air approach and went on to study at Slade, and the Newlyn School which was associated with Impressionism.

Colour and light were given priority over line and form.  Early abstract painters explored relational colour theory, and in turn subverted its symbolic and emotive meanings.  The subjective qualities of colour were then challenged by early 20th century artists like Duchamp who treated commercially prepared tubed and tinned paint as ready-made colour.  This exploration of found or readymade colour removed the hand of the artist from the alchemy of colour and reconnected our relationship to colour with the activity of everyday life and space.

[1] Preliminary research shows that there was another main supplier of paint in Nelson, but further research could determine whether Cock and Co. also supplied paint.

R Martyn stairway drawing two

Below: Painting/Blind, Dunedin Public Art Gallery rear window space, 2010

Acrylic, wood, linen, hessian, LED lights and mixed media

Conceived and located in response to both this window space and the architectural heritage of this site, Raewyn Martyn’s installation Painting / Blind unpacks the history of the Gallery’s building.  Constructed for The Drapery Importing Company of New Zealand Ltd, the original building, called the D.I.C. for short, was part of an early department store chain founded by Bendix Hallenstein in 1884.  In the memory of this community, the D.I.C. shopping complex was an important social location, an economic hub and urban symbol.

The blind that Martyn has produced for this rear window space, plays with the idea of placing a painting within a ‘shop’ window display, and references the transformation of a former department store, into an art gallery.  At the same time Painting / Blind reconsiders the early developments and qualities of modernist painting, particularly the relationship between incidental mark-making and the controlled use of repetitive patterns and colour combinations.  The limited tonal range works simultaneously as both a form of visual constraint as well as visual acuity.

The double-sided image is made up of soak-stained marks that are at times like zoomed-up versions of individual brushstrokes from the brush of an early modernist, or an abstract expressionist.  The work is restrained, rather than relying on sensational effects, so that the viewing experience is about witnessing subtle shifts in the layers and textures in the painting.

The blind painting becomes a potent metaphor about private space, whether that is within a domestic, urban or art gallery situation.  While at the same time the blind’s translucent quality, provides room for another discourse around the act of viewing; this is a painting to be gazed through rather than looked at.

blind in waiting

right corner dpagfor slideroom.jpg

Ringworm, (detail), as part of Open Home, Ringworm, curated by Melanie Oliver, 2009. Painted paper pasted to kitchen bar bench and table.

Ringworm, (detail)

Ringworm, (detail)


Studio work



high street invite image

Photoshop painting for Waterwall invite, HSP, Christchurch, 2009

Waterwall, (detail), HSP, Christchurch, 2009, Painted paper pasted on gallery walls and floor


Waterwall, (detail), HSP, Christchurch, 2009, Painted paper pasted on gallery walls and floor

Waterwall, (detail), HSP, Christchurch, 2009, Painted paper pasted on gallery walls and floor

Waterwall, (detail), HSP, Christchurch, 2009, Painted paper pasted on gallery walls and floor









Untitled, studio work, 2008/2009. Painted paper and paint on studio floor and wall.

Untitled, studio work, 2008/2009. Painted paper and paint on studio floor and wall.

studio work 2008 - 2009

above: Untitled, studio work, 2008/2009. Painted paper pasted and partially removed from studio wall.


Below: detail as part of Landing, 2008


Landing, (detail) Enjoy Gallery, 2008.  Paint, and painted canvas on stairwell surfaces.

Landing, (detail) Enjoy Gallery, 2008. Paint, dirt, and painted canvas on stairwell surfaces.

Landing, (detail) Enjoy Gallery, 2008. Paint, dirt, and painted canvas on stairwell surfaces. (canvas sheet pasted to stairwell landing wall, and canvas floor tile pasted to existing linoleum tile)

Landing, Enjoy Gallery 2008 Landing, Enjoy Gallery 2008

Untitled, studio work, 2008. Stained canvas pasted to studio floor.


Untitled, studio work, 2008. Stained canvas on studio floor.

studio work May 2010

Untitled, studio work 2007/2008, acrylic on paper.




Untitled, studio work, 2008. Stained canvas pasted to studio window.

Untitled, studio work, 2008. Stained paper pasted to studio window.

Drawings September 2010

Drawings September 2010


carpark 3 yello and white


Below:  As part of Moving Over There, COCA, Christchurch, 2008. Stained canvas on gallery floor.

(detail) As part of Moving Over There, COCA, Christchurch, 2007/2008. Stained canvas.





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