Drawing into Painting, the solo show of Martin Pearce, opened at Birch Contemporary on September 8th. It was a wonderful evening full of familiar faces and exploring the impressive paintings.
Pearce's work hangs in the main gallery space. When viewed at a distance, they appear almost plaster-like in material, but closer inspection makes the built up wax surface apparent. The evident brushstrokes in the wax reveal the process of application, which links them to the tradition of painting. The quick gestures required to apply the material to the support contrasts with the sharp, precise line work of tree like figures. This contrast was heightened when I discovered that the line work is filled with colour by rubbing paint over the surface. This technique defines the lines, pushing the trees into the foreground while giving the work an intriguing rustic, aged appearance.
Pearce described the work in Drawing into Painting as appropriating the drawings of Sir John Herschel who employed the camera lucida, used to both create and display images. Pearce has then taken technological projection one step further by using a 21st century projector to make these works. When asked about his interest in methods of observation and how it has influenced his practice, Pearce had this to say:
"Observation" is a term I wonder about all the time; it seems to be incredibly complicated - we rely on
various devices to support and assist our optical observation - it's like having an ever-present prosthesis.
These paintings are just small investigations into the complexity of how we know the world through
I enjoy looking hard at things when I paint (and in general) but I feel completely unable to look at
anything without also being aware of the images I know of the same things - landscapes are the obvious
examples to give here. (For these paintings it's trees, but I remember making a large drawing of Niagara
Falls, a place impossible to divorce from the photographic record!)
Drawing into Painting celebrates the cross between painting and drawing with the influence of historical tools. The resulted work of Pearce demonstrates an innovative take on the tradition of drawing and painting.
Drawing into Painting is open until October 15th, and should be on your must see list for the coming weeks!