‘It Has to Have a Life of Its Own’: See How Artist Jason Martin Creates His Luminous, Meditative Abstractions

In a new exhibition at Lisson Gallery, he focuses his Minimalist approach on three colors: titanium white, cobalt blue, and graphite gray.

Installation view of
Installation view of "Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.

When artist Jason Martin mixes paint, he looks like a baker making frosting. He mixes minutely different shades in big plastic bowls and then generously slathers them across the surface of the canvas. This thick impasto is characteristic of the artist’s work, and it is on full, decadent display in “Long Way Home,” his new exhibition at Lisson Gallery in London.

Martin’s new body of work focuses on variations in three main hues: titanium white, cobalt blue, and a dark blackish tone made from graphite. Distinct gallery space is devoted to each of the three, creating the impression of a journey through morning, day, and night. Each horizontally banded composition draws the eye to subtle tonal shifts in color. 

Installation view of "Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Installation view of “Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Among these, the darkest works have a special luminosity, due largely to the paint. Martin worked with paint manufacturer Old Holland, a company founded by 17th-century Dutch Old Master painters, to create a new kind of oil paint that mixes graphite into it directly, giving it a textured, metallic quality. 

Installation view of "Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Installation view of “Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.

The formal elements of Martin’s compositions call to mind the work of an artist with whom he shares a surname (but no relation): Agnes Martin. The dedicated simplicity of his premise is aligned with the Minimalist tradition, but the viscosity of the paints and the impressions left by chance effects in their density create a far more performative and even decadent sensation. This is painting less as protein, more as dessert.

Installation view of "Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.Installation view of “Jason Martin: Long Way Home,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Throughout the exhibition, Martin’s adept juxtapositions of color have an unexpected effect. Though entirely abstract compositions, one has the impression is seeing something—the ocean and sky seen from the shore, a glimmering stone on a forest floor, skin in the sunlight—through a most primary lens. 

To see Martin in action, watch the video below.

Jason Martin: Long Way Home” is on view at Lisson Gallery through June 22, 2019. 


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