Lyndsay Martin creates photographs, objects and films that explore the emotional landscape of the home and the catastrophic potential of interpersonal relationships. Rich with symbolism, her work hints at the epic proportions of suppressed feelings – rage, grief, desire – while evoking the passage of time which could allow them to evaporate, or just as easily set them in stone.
In The Grownups Are Talking (2020), radio static gives way to a reverberating guitar soundtrack that generates a deep sense of unease. Objects appear suspended in grey water or refracted through a dirty lens – dead roses, moths, fool’s gold. The materials speak of decay, metamorphosis and rebirth, as well as the dangers and disappointments of attraction.
The film’s protagonists perform simple domestic actions – perfectly manicured hands reach for a teacup or fold a napkin, figures move through a hallway or run their hands through their hair – and yet the film engenders a profound sense of dread. Violence is only hinted at, but seems to be everywhere: a cracked dinner plate, a headless family photograph, a stain. Somebody has gouged their nails into a pristine bar of soap. Perhaps, as the title suggests, things need to be discussed that a child should or must not hear.
The flickering double ‘x’ of an electric bulb filament pulses with energy and conjures images of an interrogation room or institution. A moth batters itself against a lightbulb while milk cascades over the rim of a smoked glass highball. Vintage fabrics and a heavily saturated palette – crimson, jade, turquoise – are reminiscent of the technicolour horror of Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick. Suddenly the distortion in the soundtrack sounds like the snarl of a chainsaw.
Earlier works employ similar visual techniques of collage and splicing to hint at a backstory or to fill in the blanks of a partial narrative. In Conversation 891 (2017), a skeletal porcelain ‘lovebird’ pecks its way into a display cabinet where two other birds are feeding on the red embroidery that embellishes a kitsch photograph of roses. Martin has said that her training in illustration imbues her work with a strong sense of narrative, but it also has much in common with surrealist collage and photography, where body parts are replaced with inanimate objects and scale is so distorted that it renders the familiar terrifying. Man Ray, Francesca Woodman and John Stezaker all come to mind.
In Notions of a Home (2014), dead birds and partially-clothed or sexualised figures appear for a fraction of a second, like unwanted flashbacks to events or experiences that cannot be named. Whether the body is clothed or unclothed, the faces are obscured, often by hair or dust. As a result, the viewer unwittingly occupies the position of voyeur, replicating the abuses that are implicit in the work itself.
In some cases, and particularly within Notions of a Home, pairs of images suggest an equivalence or symbiosis – a red farmhouse and a woman in a pinstriped cotton dress, a castle ruin and water running down a plughole. As in horror, some of the work’s power is derived from the juxtaposition of something joyful with something grotesque. Azaleas, which symbolise family duty, dance in the breeze but soon give way to racing clouds, vacuum cleaner dirt and the bloodied corpse of a hare.
Throughout her practice, Martin brings a Gothic sensibility to her depictions of the home, which, like Thornfield in Jane Eyre(1847) or Satis House in Great Expectations (1861), can become a prison where the female protagonist suffers or simply fades away. Narrators are unreliable and facts are often obscured or concealed, which only increases the reader’s desire to find out the truth.
Martin skilfully combines images, motifs and materials to evoke stifling environments where feelings are unexpressed and injuries fester. There is a strong sense that the rage simmering just below the surface is female. At times terrifying, at others tender and melancholy, her practice reveals so much about women’s domestic experience and the heavy psychological price we all pay for keeping up appearances. And yet, in spite of these darker themes, the work also points to a cathartic process of shedding – letting go of the concepts and forms that were familiar to you and allowing metamorphosis to take place.
AMY BOTFIELD, 2021
April - June 2018 Short Course, Set Design for Performance, Central Saint Martins
Oct 2004 - June 2006 MA Communication Design, Central Saint Martins (distinction)
Sept 2001 - June 2004 BA (Hons) Illustration, Anglia Ruskin University (2:1)
2021 Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, York Art Gallery
2020 14th September - 31st October, Sweet'Art Art Hunt, Hoxton, London
2019 'Conversation 669', Axisweb Streetplayer project showing as part of the Wakefield Artwalk, Wakefield
2018 Beautiful & Damned group exhibition, Vout O Reeness, London
2018 Brighton Photo Fringe, Launch party for shortlisted top 100 in OPEN18
2018 See Me, PUBLIC arts, New York
2017 (C)overt Corporeality, Art Exchange, Colchester
2016 Nick Knight SHOWstudio Blog previewing 'Conversation 669' video installation
2016 SHE: The Construct of Femininity, London
2015 See Me, Stories Within Images, Scope Miami Art Fair, Miami
2014 The Fallout Factory, Liverpool
2014 Wells Contemporary Art, Somerset
2013 - 2014 Burning Bright, Saatchi Suite, Hyatt Hotel Regency, London
2013 See Me, ‘The Story of a Creative’, New York
2013 Fresh Meat Gallery in collaboration with Cornflake, London
2013 Sweet Art Collective, International Women’s Day, London
2013 The Fallout Factory (winner of the public vote), Liverpool
2012 September - Hendrik Folkerts - Online Saatchi Gallery, 100 Curators 100 Days
2012 July - Bisi Silva - Online Saatchi Gallery, 100 Curators 100 Days
2012 Transition Collective, Vibe Gallery, London
2012 London Calling, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2012 Transition Collective, Vibe Gallery, London
2011 The Other Art Fair, London
2010 Japan Media Arts Festival, Tokyo
2010 Liverpool Biennial, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
2010 ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London
Nominations and Awards
2018 Shortlisted Artist top 100 in OPEN18, Brighton Photo Fringe
2014 Shortlisted Artist for Beers Contemporary Visions V
2014 Shortlisted Artist for WW Solo Award
2013 Winner - The Public Vote, Fallout Factory, Liverpool
2011 Winner - Ralph Lauren Art Star Competition
2010 Runner Up - Barbican Surreal House Competition
Residencies and Internships
2011 James Jessop studio mentorship creating work for Ralph Lauren Art Star project
2011 White Cube Gallery Internship
2009 - 2010 Artist on AA2A Scheme at Anglia Ruskin University
2013 Artwork for Album Cover and limited edition prints, Red Kite Band
2012 Artwork for single cover ‘The Gathering Storm’, Red Kite Band, London
2011 Artwork for single cover ‘No Painter of Note’, Red Kite Band,
2011 Artwork for single cover ‘Montreal’, Red Kite Band, London
2011 Press shots for Standard Planets Band, for Quietus magazine, London
2021 Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology: Future Now. The Grown-Ups Are talking, video installation long-listed
2017 Floorr Magazine Online
2017 LoVArts Online
2016 SCOPE Art Fair, See Me, Stories in Images, Hardcover Book
2015 Stigmart Video Focus Special Edition Magazine
2014 Art School Illustrated Magazine
2014 Fresh Meat Gallery Magazine
2009 London International Creative Annual
2008 Highlights Magazine