‘Mandy Martin From Queanbeyan to New York: 1978-1984 / Art & Life’

‘Mandy Martin From Queanbeyan to New York: 1978-1984 / Art & Life’, curated by Virginia Rigby at Canberra Museum and Gallery, reveals the dramatic visual and material shifts in artist Mandy Martin’s practice with a focus on her creative output between 1978 and 1984. On view until 22 January, 2022.

Early sign, 1982, acrylic and oil on canvas, 120 x 180. CMAG, Gift of the artist 2021

Mandy Martin (1952-2021) was an extraordinary printmaker and landscape painter. Her creative imaginings were impassioned with her interests in socio-political issues and feminist ideologies, the aesthetic beauty of Australia’s inland and outback landscapes that she experienced on field trips and on her travels, and the impact of industrialisation on people and the environment.

It was in 1978, that the 26-year-old emerging artist, took her politically charged motivations in one hand and her art materials in the other and moved from Adelaide in South Australia to Queanbeyan in the ACT where she joined Canberra’s growing arts community as an artist and a teacher.

‘From Queanbeyan to New York’ charts a pivotal time in Martin’s practice. It brings to view a collection of works created in those early Canberra days, from the artist’s softly defined gouache and watercolour paintings, which posit her friends and neighbours in the familiar settings of suburbia, to a series of energetic and powerful interpretations of industrialised landscapes rendered in vigorous dark hued paint marks against the deep burnt oranges, browns and reds, that are naturally characteristic of Australia’s unique vistas.

Letterbox, 1978, gouache on cold pressed board, 49.5 x 59cm. CMAG, Gift of the artist 2021

In Adelaide, Martin’s works were known for their bold graphics and loud political statements. One such example was a screenprint poster depicting Viet Cong women marching with machine guns in the shadows of a giant coke bottle with the slogan ‘The Drive Of The US Is To Replace The Traditional Status Values Of The Village Such As Great Poetry With New Ones Like Owning A TV Set’, framing the scene. Martin continued to voice issues of marginalisation and other critical themes related to people and the environment throughout her more than forty-year career as artist and activist.

Martin’s works are held in private collections, and in national and international gallery and museum collections, including the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 1988, she completed a major commission titled Red Ochre Cove, a breathtaking 3-metre-high, 12-metre-wide landscape painting, which presides high above one of the main convention rooms at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Martin lectured in Printmaking at the School of Art, Australian National University (ANU)  from 1978 to 2003 and in 2009 she was appointed the role of Adjunct Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU. From 2014, she was an active supporter of CLIMARTE, the Melbourne-based climate advocacy organisation who seek collaborations with the arts, humanities and sciences, to inform, inspire and cultivate meaningful actions on climate change.

Fire Escape 1, 1981, paint stick on Dessin, 75 x 101cm. CMAG, Gift of the artist 2021

Martin’s legacy culminates in a new artist grant, the Mandy Martin Fellowship, recently established by Martin’s family and facilitated by CLIMARTE. The Fellowship will be inaugurated in 2022 with the promise of honouring the artist’s request to provide a program that will thrive to support the making of creative responses to the climate crisis.

Visit CLIMARTE here to stay up to date with the announcement of the call to artists.

Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) have also collaborated with leading Canberra-based screen-print artist Alison Alder in the production of a limited-edition poster as an homage to the exhibition and Mandy Martin’s legacy. Posters are $25 from CMAG and proceeds will go towards the new Mandy Martin Fellowship. Contact CMAG for more information.

Visit Canberra Museum and Gallery from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm to explore ‘Mandy Martin From Queanbeyan to New York’, and to explore more of CMAG’s exhibitions and events program.

All images are courtesy of Canberra Museum and Gallery, Australian Capital Territory