Chris Martin paints Amy Winehouse

Find out why the American painter themed his current exhibition around the British singer’s untimely death
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Amy(2015) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery
Amy(2015) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery

A Saturn Return, as all good star gazers should know, is a period of just under 30 years, during which time the planet Saturn orbits once around the sun. Adult responsibilities come when Saturn returns to the position it was in when we were born, and its malign influence, astrologically speaking, over our late twenties is said to contribute to the untimely deaths of a great number of singers and musicians, from Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, who all passed away at the age of 27.

 

Detail from Untitled (2015) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery
Detail from Untitled (2015) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery

When Amy Winehouse died in 2011 aged 27 and 312 days she became the latest and most notable member of the so-called 27 Club. And it is Winehouse’s death that gives the US painter Chris Martin’s current show at the David Kordansky Gallery in LA, Saturn Returns, its name.

As the writer and curator Bob Nickas explains in our book Painting Abstraction, Martin is not some painterly gossip columnist, but a sincere admirer of Paul Klee and de Kooning, who worked as an art therapist with AIDS patients and the mentally ill for 15 years.

 

Untitled (2016) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery
Untitled (2016) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery

In helping his patients express themselves he also informed his own artistic technique, which he describes as “an unconscious practice of drawing.”

Although many of his works are abstract, he remains fully engaged with the real world generally and popular culture in particular. James Brown and Gang Starr, have all found their way into the work of this Washington Born, Brooklyn-based artist, as well as plenty more besides.

So while there are Winehouse-inspired images in the show, there are also skeletons, tree frogs, and plenty of luscious, glittery abstract works too.

 

Smoker (2011) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery
Smoker (2011) by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery

Indeed, while the exhibition’s title might be a nod to Amy, it’s also a personal reference for a painter who, now in his early sixties, is experiencing a Saturn Return for the second time.

“The overt influences – musical, spiritual, and art historical – that appear throughout his work are acknowledgments of his desire to return to a common well, or universally accessible source of inspiration,” explains Martin's gallery David Kordansky.

What’s more Chris Martin has made his works pretty accessible, by mounting some of them in vitrines on the outside of the gallery, enabling both dedicated gallery goers and casual passers-by to take in his bright, poppy and occasionally therapeutic works.

 

Exterior installation image of Saturn Returns by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery
Exterior installation image of Saturn Returns by Chris Martin. Image courtesy of the David Kordansky Gallery

For greater insight into this artist and many others, order a copy of Painting Abstraction here.


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