Artist's Statement: Martin McGinn on changing art history with Volume I at Piper Gallery

By Ben Miller | 11 January 2013

A photo of a male artist standing up in front of a mirror in a studio full of blank canvasses
Artist's Statement: Martin McGinn on Volume I, his new exhibition at London’s Piper Gallery treating art history books as still life models...

“I work in monastic silence in my studio. My subjects are familiar objects that I place casually, yet carefully, on a horizontal, reflective surface.

“I scrutinise these screwed-up bits of paper or well-thumbed volumes that have inhabited my studio space for years.

“Initially, it was a revelation for me to see such familiar books and bits of paper as subjects in their own right.

“The invitation from Megan Piper to show at her gallery gave me the required inspiration and motivation to release the hidden notion that had been staring at me for years.

“Sometime before that, I had had a similar revelatory moment in my studio. I had been working on large-scale paintings of supermarkets from my own photographs.

“The photographs of shops were spread across my work bench, and I was trying to decide which image I wanted to paint next.

“One was upside down, and it suddenly struck me that it looked more like a cityscape than a retail outlet.

“I changed the floor into a sky and painted out the people – I had created a magically inverted cityscape.

“I suspect that the ideas behind these new works have a similar root or philosophy as those of my earlier work.

“I suppose it’s about looking at familiar objects for years and using them in a habitual way – one day things are then turned upside down. The world suddenly shifts and what was once an invisible subject becomes clear.

“Using art historical references in my own work has been a preoccupation for some time. But the problem of originality has been nagging at the back of my mind.

“I felt as though some of the work I had been doing was not as much about me as an artist as I would like. I was too focused on the subjects I was painting.

“The prospect of a major show certainly galvanised my thinking in a way which both surprised and delighted me.

“The results of this certainly made me concentrate more on my own reactions to the things in front of me and the way I enjoy looking at things in an odd way.”


More pictures:

A photo of a colourful oil painting of a catalogue for New York's Museum of Modern Art
The Embrace (2012)© Courtesy Martin McGinn / The Piper Gallery
A photo of a colourful oil painting of a scrunched up piece of paper with a pattern on it
Mondrian Discarded (2012)© Courtesy Martin McGinn / The Piper Gallery
A photo of a colourful oil painting of a thick pink book on a light blue surface
Andy and Heiner (2012)© Courtesy Martin McGinn / The Piper Gallery
A photo of a colourful oil painting of a thick book with the word art history on its spine
Art History's Shadow (2012)© Courtesy Martin McGinn / The Piper Gallery
A photo of a colourful oil painting of a thick book with the word bauhaus on its spine
Coffee Table Bauhaus (2012)© Courtesy Martin McGinn / The Piper Gallery
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