Martin Thompson - 5 New Works ( Brett McDowell Gallery )

Hours of meticulous labour, complete concentration, and mathematical genius are the artistic virtues currently on display at the Brett McDowell Gallery. New Zealand artist Martin Thompson is showing his five newest works, which exhibit his fanatical obsession with systemised geometric drawing, his passion for colour, and a painstaking dedication to his work.

Thompson’s large ink drawings are done on one-millimeter square graph paper with fine-tipped coloured pens, producing intricate designs reminiscent of both computer pixels and embroidery stitches. Each selected square is filled in according to a complex mathematical formula of Thompson’s own design. His fractal equations direct the ink pen across the paper in repeated sequences that build up to form intense works of geometric abstraction. Though his drawings are rooted in a mathematical framework, the striking colours and delicate compositions have a lyrical beauty that seems to defy such systematic origins. Each work is a pair, with a negative clone alongside the original contributing to the repetition that lends the works their patchwork effect.
Spending up to twelve hours on one drawing, Thompson possesses an android-like focus and dedication. However, in performing such a laborious hand-operated process, slip-ups do happen and on close inspection it’s clear the graph paper is textured with patched-up mistakes. This evidence of the artist’s hand contrasts with the discipline and rigidity of the work’s conception and method of construction. The corrections also serve to remind the viewer of the surface’s tangibility, as it is easy to get lost in the mesmerizing labyrinth created by the fine mesh of positive and negative squares. The use of colour is just as important as the mathematical precision in Thompson’s work. Rich bright blues dominate the small exhibition, with the surprising addition of neon pink. This smaller work escapes looking garish or out of place as it demands and justifies its presence by balancing striking confrontational colour with the sensitivity lent by the obsessive detail and hand-made method. 
Thompson’s drawings are simultaneously delightful and bewildering. His combination of lively colour, fine technique and control, and the perfection of the mathematics of geometry, result in beautifully crafted and compelling works. 
Posted 3:56am Wednesday 23rd June 2010 by Critic.