Artist Jennifer Louise Martin’s recent series The Absence of Presence was born out of a lack of a space to work in. “I didn’t have a studio at that point, so I just basically made like 100 collages in a sketchbook and I painted pieces of paper,” she explains over the phone, “and some of them, when I managed to get them into the studio, I made into paintings.” Martin’s mixed media pieces are enticing, incorporating embroidery, swathes of rich colours, and the unavoidable lack of faces on their female figures. Having studied psychology, and harbouring an interest in “the unconscious process”, Martin’s work is informed by such ideas – even if she is not aware of the influence until the pieces are complete. “When I was doing those collages, I knew I was sort of anxious for a long time, but I didn’t really know why I was cutting the faces out,” she says, “but looking back, that’s when I began to realise it was this ‘derealisation’ sensation.” Derealisation is characterised by a feeling of not being present, hence the title The Absence of Presence, and the distance that is established between the viewer and the paintings’ subjects, a distance that allows for the viewer to “play a part” in them, and perhaps craft their own narrative.
Often taking inspiration from wallpaper or fabric prints from the 1960s and 70s, as well as vintage magazine and advertising clippings, and combining these with images from her own travels – they are cut and pasted by hand, always – Martin’s pieces have a timeless quality to them. Certain patterns and colours – the pale blue floral wallpaper in Succulent, the multi-hued knitwear in Blue Funk, or the kitsch flowered bedspread in Fool’s Paradise, for example – add an element of the visceral to her work, the embroidery in some makes the pieces ultra tactile. (Martin teaches Art as well as practising it, and began to involve embroidery into her own work after covering it in her lessons.) As part of Imagined Characters, a newly opened exhibition at London’s Sid Motion Gallery, Martin’s pieces are on display alongside those of Charis Entwisle, Pat O’Connor and Daniel Wheeler in an exploration of identity and perception – where they play a reflective role indeed.
Imagined Characters runs at Sid Motion Gallery, London, until April 14, 2018.