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Yvette Martin (art feature)

April 27th, 2008

- Paintings by Yvette Martin, inspired by light, shadow and confusion, is on at The Horn of Plenty Country House, Tavistock, until May 1
posted by Cptn

Yvette Martin is a bundle of calm energy, especially when dealing with problems. There’s an issue at her Okehampton gallery on the day of our interview. She’s pragmatic, business-like and her main concern is for the work and the artist.

Two of the ceramic works of Paul Devon have been broken. Throughout the day she checks up on the situation and speaks to the artist, who will pick up the pieces and use them to create something new.

It’s a metaphor that could be extended to the Exeter-born artist herself.

Although not often broken (The Rings Project notwithstanding) she has transformed into different beings. Now as proprietor of The Arts Gallery she also deals with Art fashion and is trying to push forward plans for a dance studio/art centre in Okehampton. And her career as a practitioner has seen her shift seats, or change hats. She is an environmental artist after graduating from the Royal College of Art, but she’s also been an arts planner, architect, interior designer, international snow carving team member, and is now developing her painting – she has two earmarked to put in for the Royal Academy summer show.

Not surprisingly a lot of her pictures are of mazes. Her maze paintings have a stark, almost inter-war modernity, with uneasy shadows that are 20 minutes away from being sinister.

“Working in the environment, you come across labyrinths and mazes. They are part of our history, and they are versatile with different meanings and different purposes. And I’m fascinated with the stone circles and crosses on Dartmoor,” says Yvette.

And it’s an abiding interest that manifested itself in her environmental work – a recent commission at Delamore was a twig and branch maze that swirled around one of the lawns. The ability to see through the walls and being forced low by the ceiling adding to the feeling of being trapped while in full view.

The Rings Project, too, was based around a labyrinth. Set in Hatherleigh this was to be a £3 million land art project on seven acres that was to complement the town’s community centre. Despite four years in the planning and a handful of Blue Chip commercial sponsors, the plans fell through, but along the way she become qualified in setting up a social enterprise, adept at IT and won a grant from Community Champions. And February 2003 was awarded a certificate for exceptional achievement for the work.

It also cost her her marriage, and since then, sans husband, she’s built up the successful Arts Gallery, in Okehampton.

She confesses she loves a challenge, but maybe it’s the nurturing of an idea that she enjoys. Plenty of her early environmental work deals with seeds, growth and change. She worked in the Natural History Museum grounds to create Seed Pod, and similar themes spring up in her work in Epping Forest and The Mythic Garden. And her four-month resident in the Forest of Dean was inspired by the seasons.

“When I applied for the residency I had an interview. One of the interviewers asked what I intended to do. After a while I said ‘look, I don’t know until I get there’.”

It was the answer they were after, and that improvising, that adapting, that use of local materials is what excites Yvette.

Her paintings take on different tone and are worked over and over again until she’s happy. And that happiness might include what other people see as mistakes, or don’t see at all.

“People think they know what’s in a painting, but it’s not until they’ve really looked that they can see what’s going on,’ she says.

This includes shadows that aren’t true, a curtain blowing in the wind that is about to knock over a vase, birds dancing, not fighting, and an ‘error’ that pops up in a number of her butterfly paintings.

“Pictures are made up of different parts,” she says. “At first the image appears OK but when you look deeper there are sharp and jagged lines.”

The pictures of the butterflies are a case in point, they are fleeing the display boxes they’d been collected in, their bright colour in contrast to the stark box, and there’s a loss of identity. Essentially hopeful, there’s the idea of being trapped and on display, which is reminiscent of her Delamore maze, and mazes in general.
Flight, too, is a theme. “I hover above them,” she says of her maze pictures. And then there are the pictures of the birds and butterflies, and even the curtains are flapping in the wind.

Yvette has selected two of her maze pictures to be entered into submissions for the Royal Academy summer show.

Entry Filed under: Society

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