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Simon Martin

This is Simon Martin's largest public exhibition in the UK to date, bringing together three years of work created in video, digital animation, and as installation. Martin's work is an extended enquiry into our relationship to objects, and the material world around us. He queries how and why we attribute different values and significance to inanimate, man-made objects. His work also probes how objects exert powers over us: echoing the philosopher Bruno Latour's recent arguments, Martin ponders what agency they possess in the world, and what mythologies we weave around them. His work asks such questions in a highly distinctive, softly spoken, and subtle manner. The New York Times has described Martin's works as "masterpiece[s] of poetic discretion".


Simon Martin - Carlton (2006)

The exhibition brings together four short films by Martin that exemplify two contrasting tendencies in his recent work. Carlton and Louis Ghost Chair dwell on what narrative film can achieve. The two works take the form of a monologue, accompanied by luxuriantly photographed details of the two objects in the titles, to prize open new meanings from historical objects. Both examine objects from the history of design, whose status is ambiguous, and problematic. In Louis Ghost Chair, Martin creates what might be called an 'entangled history'. The combination of voiceover and luxuriant cinematography creates a complex narrative that begins with an examination of one familiar object - Philippe Starck's plastic 'Louis Ghost' chair - interweaves ideas from different fields of knowledge, and draws in alarmingly centrifugal points of reference. 

Simon Martin - Carlton (2013)

 Over the duration of its 17 minutes, the work asks what created the ethos of the 'international style' in art and design; what drove its defeat by mass consumption; what the aftermath of modernism now amounts to; and what an apparently simple chair tells us about both the means of production, and the production of meaning, in the early twenty-first century. Carlton looks at the shelving unit of that name designed by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis in 1981. It queries, amongst other things,  whether the principles of 'good design' - of form following function, of truth to materials, and of the display of structure over superficial décor - are timeless truths or merely the tenets promoted by a particular group or class, at a particular moment in history. 

Simon Martin - Lemon 2 Generations

Two other works meanwhile, both untitled, adapt the logic of Structuralist film-making of the 1960s and 1970s, whilst subtly transforming it for an age dominated by digital rather than analogue photographic images.
Image: still from 'Louis Ghost Chair', 2011, high-definition video. Photography: David Pearson

Simon Martin - Louis Ghost Chair

Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and the Holburne Museum, Bath, in association with Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Elena Hill and Collective, Edinburgh, and supported by Arts Council England with additional support from Henry Moore Foundation.

Simon Martin - Untitled

Simon Martin - Untitled (After Donald Judd)