Teresa Martin’s vibrant and unique paintings reveal her fascination with cities and the lives people lead in them. These are not paintings of grand vistas but of the quirky details and intimate views observed by a flaneur, who wanders the city on foot.
Teresa Martin’s vibrant and unique paintings reveal her fascination with cities and the lives people lead in them. These are not paintings of grand vistas but of the quirky details and intimate views observed by a flaneur, who wanders the city on foot. Teresa paints the things that captivate her – architectural facades, cinemas, cafes. She finds beauty in the ordinary things that we pass daily and barely notice.
The people who animate a city are largely absent in these paintings. Instead, their presence is evoked through the buildings, the sidewalks, the posters and the odd passing truck or leaning bicycle. This absence creates a certain stillness in the images interrupted at moments by the movement in a half-folded street umbrella or reflections in a shop window.
Many of Teresa’s images have been inspired by travel. An early fascination with France and Russia, led her to study both languages at university and live for a period in Paris. Since then she has been back and forth many times, on each journey developing a new body of work.
The unprecedented ease of travel in the 21st Century can lead to a glib attitude, where experiences are instantly consumed, leaving little room for transformation. But at its best, travel allows a freshness of vision, an awakening of the eye and a refreshing of the spirit. This is what can be seen in Teresa paintings.
In ‘Winter Sun’, from the St Petersburg series, a road with traffic is momentarily transformed as the sun’s early rays catch the smog and all is wrapped in hazy red and gold. The warm, spiritual light from the stain glass in ‘Cathedral with Iron Work’ is contrasted to the dark and delicate bare limbs of winter trees, which are echoed in the sinuous iron lace of an art nouveau gate. In the New York series, large expanses of red brick wall are punctuated by fire escapes and balconies, creating geometric patterns, which are then interrupted at moments by half closed curtains that suggest the people living within.
Teresa has also made her home city of Melbourne a subject over many years. And yet a viewer might struggle to know which paintings depict her hometown and which are created from her travels. Melbourne is transformed by the same enchanted eye, ever attentive to the poetic details and correspondences that are so easily missed in our busy lives.
Travel of the kind Teresa does can be a solitary experience, as so much time is spent in looking and working. These paintings have a quality of observing from the outside, a solitary quality, and yet it is not a lonely space they evoke. It is a space of deep reflection, of quiet joy in winter landscapes where the soul is laid bare and of exuberant pleasure in the colours and patterns surrounding us, whether created by nature or the human hand.
Author – Gabrielle Martin, artist