Johannesburg based artist, Sue Martin, has been honing her painting and printmaking skills since the 1980s when she completed a BA Fine Arts degree at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal).
Martin boldly engages and experiments with a variety of techniques and media to produce her compelling, as well as, deeply personal artworks. Her skillful manipulation of composition and typography adds texture to her work, while simultaneously paying homage to her previous career in advertising. Martin sees her artistic practice as a journey, through which she explores aspects of her lived experience and her personal identity, against a wider historical backdrop.
In the intervening twenty years since Martin’s first solo exhibition in 1999, she has participated in numerous group exhibitions and Art Fairs across South Africa. In addition, Martin has produced several successful solo exhibitions that have established her as a prominent feature in the South African art market. In 2010, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) recognised Martin’s work and acquired the series Urban Cowboys (2009) for its permanent collection. Moreover, earlier this year, the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce (JCCI) added a selection of paintings and prints, from Martin’s series The Cartographer’s Notes (2020), to its permanent collection. Martin has also been invited by Mark Attwood to participate in the prestigious residency at The Artists’ Press towards the middle of 2020.
Working from her Johannesburg-based studio, Martin continues to exhibit her work extensively with various galleries such as Knysna Fine Art, In Toto Gallery, Artist Proof Studio, and The White River Gallery. Most recently her work was selected for exhibition at Design Joburg and Grande Provence, Franschoek.
Reflecting on my artistic practice, I can hear the voice of acclaimed German artist Anselm Kiefer: ‘What does the artist do? [S]he draws connections. [S]he ties the invisible threads between things. [S]he dives into history, be it the history of mankind, the geological history of the Earth or the beginning and end of the manifest cosmos’ (Kiefer 2011). In some ways, I see my creative process as a response to Kiefer’s assertion. I imagine myself taking up the mantel in my studio space, and weaving connections between a variety of historical and geographical sources. However, as I look outwards at the complex history of the world, I am acutely aware of the driving force that motivates my engagement in this project: to engage and better understand a personal exploration of ‘belonging’.
As a third-generation South African living and working in Johannesburg, in the post-apartheid era, this exploration remains embedded in the nucleus of my practice and often informs the starting point for my artworks. I frequently incorporate found objects into my work, such as historical maps, that bring with them their own history. I respond to these objects by painting on them, and drawing into them, thereby creating a multitude of layers revealing and obscuring images and ideas. By building-up these layers, I encourage the viewer to look beneath the veneer of the artworks. It is through this process of disentangling and extracting meaning, that the viewer becomes an active participant in translating the images and threading their own connections, and narratives, into the artworks.
1998: Participated in the St Johns Centenary exhibition
1999: First solo exhibition at the Enviro Gallery, Houghton Estate
2001: Solo exhibition at Upstairs@Bamboo, Melville
2002: Participated in a group exhibition for the French Consulate
2002: Joint exhibition with Eleonora Bonavera at Upstairs@Bamboo, in Melville
2004: Solo exhibition in Westcliff
2006: Exhibited at Rooms on View
2007: Exhibited at Rooms on View
2008: Exhibited at Rooms on View
2008: Exhibited at Castellano Beltrame
2008: Exhibited in the Sun International Positive Art Exhibition
2009: Exhibited in an exhibition of international and South African at the White House Gallery
2010: Exhibited with Joan Sainsbury and Julia Cavalleri at Villa Arcadia in Parktown
2011: Solo exhibition at the David Brown Gallery Sandton
2012: Participated in a group exhibition at Toto Gallery Bridharven
2015: Solo exhibition at Alive Art Kramerville
2015: Solo exhibition at Halifax Gallery Parkhurst
2015: Group show at Everard Read Stone Steel and Bronze
2016: That Art Fair Cape Town
2016: Turbine Art Fair Newtown
2016: FNB ART FAIR and JHB ART WEEK
2016: Solo exhibition at Intoto Gallery Jhb
2017: Participated in a group exhibition at Intoto Gallery Jhb
2017: Turbine Art Fair
2017: FNB ART FAIR and JHB ART WEEK
2017: Participated in a Women group exhibition at Artist Proof Studio Jhb
2017: KKNK Festival Karoo
2017: Solo exhibition at Julie Miller Investment Art Gallery Midrand
2017: Tiny group exhibition at Intoto Gallery Jhb
2017: SA Fine Art Print Fair GIBS Jhb
2018: Design Joburg
2019: Design Joburg
2019: Illusion / Allusion Group Exhibition
2019: Turbine Art Fair
2019: Knysna Fine Art Gallery Group Exhibition
2020: Grande Provence