For his first solo commission in a British public space Simon Martin presents Untitled (2008),
a new single-screen video installation conceived specially for this exhibition at Chisenhale.
Martin’s practice examines the cultural significance of art and artifacts and our relationship to
them, and encompasses painting, sculpture and moving image. In recent years he has focused
almost exclusively on film. Untitled marks a departure into the realm of high definition, CAD
(computer assisted design) animation.
In 1998 Martin made a photorealist painting of a strawberry poison dart frog based on a found
photograph. Untitled returns to that same source image though here it is rendered in a fully threedimensional
The animation of the frog could be seen as a collection of establishing shots,
carefully observing the creature and exploring the virtual space of the synthetic image. Moving
between stillness and motion, Martin’s digital rendering of the photographic image creates an
uncanny effect and a self-reflexive comment on the construction of images.
Punctuating shots of the frog are intertitles consisting of text taken from various airport novels.
These are banal, generic phrases, which describe a variety of locations and simple actions and
combine to evoke a liminal non-space. A collage of rainforest sounds and orchestral extracts
accompanies the images and text. The orchestral extracts signify the ‘cinematic’, yet the images,
text and sound do not fully fuse, instead remaining as discrete, parallel layers of information.
There might be clues to things outside of the film – love affairs or world events – but extracted
from a wider narrative, here, in isolation, meaning is infinitely deferred and we remain resolutely
in the presentness of the work.
To quote Martin, ‘A picture of a poison dart frog is something we could all be familiar with from
a TV documentary or a museum postcard. An image like this becomes the start of a discussion or
a springboard to somewhere else. An event or situation can also coalesce into a memorable image,
one that we can try to reproduce or simply hold in our heads. How are images used to direct our
attention and what information unwittingly leaks out in the process. What did the image-maker not
see? What does the frame exorcise? Why this particular image? And how is it that some images
remain, despite familiarity or analysis, potent or strange whilst others will slip by barely noticed.’
CHISENHALE 64 Chisenhale Road London E3 5QZ
Simon Martin Through to – 18 January 2009