Private View: Thursday the 7th of October, 6:30-9pm
London (London Bridge, Speak Easy Gallery)
Large-scale canvases filled with cloudscapes and sun-bleached foliage create a lofty, ethereal atmosphere in A Piece of Me, Martine Poppe’s latest solo exhibition at Kristin Hjellegjerde London. The exhibition takes the form of an immersive installation in which viewers are invited into the artist’s “cloud museum”, a place of calm expansiveness and interconnectivity.
While Poppe identifies primarily as a painter, she uses photography as a form of “sketching”, to record the world around her and create a digital archive of personal experiences and memories, which she then translates into painterly compositions. For this latest series of work, she found herself gravitating towards imagery of the sky, trees and sunlight partly in response to her experience of lockdown while also reflecting on wider environmental issues. However, instead of focusing on the problems and associated feelings of anxiety and fear, Poppe explores art’s ability to provide space for contemplation and healing. “I want to be empathetic and generous through my work,” she says.
This approach is reflected both in the universality of the subject-matter and the gentle colour palette that evokes a sense of bright airiness. The painting entitled Yellow, for instance, captures the transient moment of sunlight filtering through the clouds and filling the sky with an almost otherworldly luminosity. It is a familiar scene - one that will recall different memories, experiences and feelings for each individual - but Poppe’s distinct process also serves to complicate our sense of reality. She begins by printing out the digital image at large-scale, before covering it with a translucent type of sail cloth which she paints directly onto in quick, textural gestures that create an almost distorted effect, recalling the pixelation of digital imagery, while also describing the artist’s movement across the surface. While this method of mark-making is intuitive for Poppe, it also reflects the way in which the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds are becoming increasingly blurred, giving way to a kind of hybrid perspective. When we look up at the sky, for example, we not only see the sky as it is that day in our specific geographical location, but also through the filter of imagery of other skies as depicted in art, on social media and on other digital platforms.
Although this kind of image saturation can often feel overwhelming in our everyday lives, the layered materiality of Poppe’s works both slows down the viewing process and reflects the wider circularity of nature. “Clouds are air made visible. They’re the movement and rhythm of it moving across the surface of the globe, around and through us all. The air that’s filtered through me, could have come from you,” she says. While the perspective of the paintings suggests we are gazing upwards at the sky or through the branches of trees, they also hold the presence of Poppe’s physicality, blurring the boundaries between the material and the imaginative further. In this sense, the paintings are, if not complete self-portraits, then a small fragment or piece of self caught suspended in time and materiality and put forth into the world as a kind of offering, an invitation to connect.