‘Andy St. Martin: Selected Works From 1999 to 2007’
The animated personality of painter Andy St. Martin shines through all the careful color fields he creates in the abstracts populating his new solo show at 4 walls fine art
Reviewed by Rachel Koper, Fri., May 25, 2007
"Andy St. Martin: Selected Works From 1999 to 2007"
4 walls fine art, through June 30
As the visual-arts scene in Austin continues to expand, viewers are rewarded with more solo shows. One of the newest is "Selected Works From 1999 to 2007," showing several series of paintings by Andy St. Martin, whose work can be labeled abstract expressionist or minimalist. What gives St. Martin a more expressionist interpretation is his light, spontaneous line work and his use of symbols. In some of the paintings, a thick, chunky line will skip across, twirl, and then exit the composition. These lines are bold and rapid and act as if they were a character in a quiet vignette. What St. Martin describes as "a private symbolized divulgence" in his imagery are the vaguely recognizable elements that drift through his work. Roots seems to have a wacky green mountain behind the roots. Superior Prize has a baby-blue Monopoly-house shape in it. Dog Dreaming is literally a dog. But some pieces, such as Mexican Imagination, a diptych of blue panels, are strictly abstract. Abstract expressionism can sometimes seem juvenile, incomplete, or be overwrought by ego, but St. Martin's light touch, natural subject matters, and palette allow him to avoid these common pitfalls.
St. Martin's solo show is on display in 4 walls fine art, a spacious new Downtown gallery that is pleasant to visit and that has produced a charming book for the exhibit. The high ceilings and textures of the space work well with St. Martin's palette and scale. Most of his abstracts are in the 4-foot-by-4-foot range, although some of the 28 works here are larger and not square. The compositions are simple, light, and open feeling. The lightness is due to a combination of technical discipline and whimsy. His techniques of mixing media and a strictly limited palette allow the surface texture of the works to be the signature element of the paintings. The manner in which St. Martin layers the paint, the brushes he uses to apply it, and the sheen and thickness of the various materials are all precisely controlled. With all this attention to ordering and building up thick and thin surface qualities, there is a sense of finish. The artist is paying attention and is intellectually engaged in the process.
The paintings shown here were all created over a span of eight years with a very consistent style. Paintings made in 1999 hang next to works made this year in harmony. St. Martin's works can be divided into groups more easily by color palette than by year made. The newest series is mostly black and white. There is a pastel group that incorporates pinks, light blues, and whites. I like the earth-toned ones, of which Plantwall is quite appealing with its periwinkle touches. These nature-themed paintings are heavy on the sienna and saturated greens and yellows. There is also perhaps a retro category, with pieces like Home, which includes the classic two-color combination of toothpaste gel mint with rusty chocolate brown. A fairly new piece titled Field has quite a bit of acid yellow and green divided into three panels. It includes aerosol, latex, and oil paint; it's one of my favorite pieces in the show. Each of the three panels uses more or less the same colors but applied in different ways. The structure is supercontrived, and yet the finished effect is fresh. The colors of St. Martin's animated personality shine through all the careful color fields he creates. (For more about artist Andy St. Martin, see "Andy St. Martin: Break on through to the other side.")