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Martin, Brian - 2018.2.1

Brian Martin

Methexical Countryscape Kamilaroi #8 2017
charcoal on paper
215 x 156 cm
Purchased 2018

Brian Martin is an Aboriginal artist of Bundjalung and Muruwari descent. He completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Hons) at Sydney University and a PhD by research at Deakin University, in Victoria. A practising artist for more than two decades, Martin has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, in painting and drawing. His practice deals with representations of country from the perspective of Indigenous understandings and connection to place that simultaneously interrogate colonial history.

Methexical Countryscape Kamilaroi #8 and Methexical Countryscape Kamilaroi #10 are charcoal drawings on paper, each 209 x 146 centimetres. The simple description of the works is unable to convey the works’ intricate and complex nature. Martin’s technical skills are remarkable. Witnessed from a distance, the photographic quality of the works reflects the nineteenth-century view of photography, that it would eventually replace fine art and in particular the technical skill of the artist, who would be replaced by the new (photographic) technology, variously described as ‘the pencil of history’ and ‘the eye of nature’.

Such was not the case, of course, evidenced by a closer viewing of Martin’s works. His charcoal on paper is tactile, organic and full of movement. The mighty tree trunks of ancient eucalypts are truly alive. In this way, the artist conveys not only the living reality of Indigenous country, belying the myth of colonial conquest, but to also gives value to the ongoing life of Indigenous nations and people on country. The story, the narrative conveyed through the landscapes portrayed in the works, is produced with patience, subtlety and sophistication. Descriptively, two simple but evocative words that come to mind when contemplating Methexical Countryscape Kamilaroi #8 and Methexical Countryscape Kamilaroi #10 are beauty and strength – not as a contrast or even a juxtaposition, but a natural weave of the qualities embedded in country.

Another vital aspect conveyed through the works, in a technical and metaphorical sense, is that each drawing comprises of many individual drawings brought together to create the whole. To describe this process as patchwork perhaps, or even a puzzle, would be to misrepresent both the production and outcome. The strength of the works is this regard is that each smaller drawing represents an aspect of country, retaining qualities and vital knowledge on its own terms, enhanced by its interconnectedness with other stories, allowing one to imagine the spiritual quality of the completed works.

Indigenous country was severely fragmented as a result of the violence and attempted dispossession that accompanied colonialism in Australia. Some nations were exterminated, people were dispersed, families and children were separated, some never to be reunited. Faced with the reality of genocide, Indigenous people defied the forces of violent dispossession. We rejuvenated ourselves and our diverse histories and cultures. Through his practice, his creative intellect and his compassion for and love of country, Brian Martin epitomises our strength.

Tony Birch is a Melbourne-based writer, activist and historian.

From the series
Martin, Brian - 2018.2.2
Brian Martin

Methexical Countryscape Kamilaroi #10 2017
charcoal on paper
215 x 156 cm
Purchased 2018