Feels Like Painting: Mandy Martin at CMAG

I knew alarmingly little of Mandy Martin (why is that the more I write the less I find out I know?), but went to her exhibition expecting not to like her work, perhaps partly due to the somewhat hideous image on the invite. How unprepared I was.

First step in the door, first work, I am in love. This is painting. Real live thick impasto washed and bled big as you can afford to make it painting. Hallelujah.

Wanderers In the Desert of the Real Mandy Martin 2008
Wanderers In the Desert of the Real Mandy Martin 2008



Martin is obviously a master of her craft, creating images that are at once commandingly solid and stunningly luminous, resting somewhere between realism and other-worldliness. Her large-scale pieces are completely immersive, emitting a shimmering, mirage-like quality that finds me holding my breathe lest they disappear. I can immediately see that the reproductions used in the promotional material have fallen way short in capturing what is so alive in these works.

The exhibition is Mandy Martin: Painting 1981-2009, organised and shown by the Canberra Museum and Gallery. I am flabbergasted that it has taken me so long to discover Martin, being that she is Canberran and was affiliated with the School of Art for many years. I wish I could travel back in time and show this work to first-year art student me, to say ‘this is how it’s done’.

For the first time in years I feel like painting…

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