MARTIN THOMPSON (1955, NEW ZELAND)
Born in Wellington, New Zeland, in 1955, Martin Thompson is a self-taught artist and mathematician.
Straddling the poverty line and unable to manage employment, he survived through support from a government health benefit and his own opportunistic salvaging of demolition wood. Timber became one of Thompson’s greatest passions after being trained as a wood joiner as a teenager. Coincidentally, it was also around this time that Thompson because to suffer from a mental condition that made subtle codes of social behavior both difficult and stressful. Martin’s inability to function socially is balanced by having extraordinary talents elsewhere. He is sensitive to light, color, sound and has an exceptional capacity for numbers. These gifts, along with his wood joinery skills, all come together in the artist’s drawings. His disability overshadowed his abilities and for many years, Thompson’s condition kept him ostracized from the mainstream art world. Nevertheless, he kept creating always carrying a bundle of papers under one of his arms.The bundle contained a large pile of his drawings, some recent others in progress or old. The drawings themselves represented a dazzling array of complex graphic system that Thompson created over his life in an effort to create order and pattern.
Everything changed in 2002 when Thompson met with curator Brooke Anderson. Subsequently, Anderson decided to feature his work in the renowned exhibition Obsessive Drawings at the American Folk Museum in 2005. As a result, Thompson’s reputation grew and his work has been shown and collected internationally ever since.
Thompson’s drawings were made from A3 or A4 graph paper and fine point ink marking pens. His process consists of meticulously applying color in sequenced rows of tiny squares. The layers combine to form designs resembling intricate quilts, radiating mandalas, or patterns of pixilated TV static. There are no tests or trial runs in Thompson’s creative process. All of the calculations in his work are intuitive, appearing on the paper with miraculous mechanical certainty.
1) © Collection ABCD, Montreuil
2) © Collection ABCD, Montreuil
3) Untitled, 2000, ink on graph paper © Ricco Maresca Gallery