Martin King


Artist’s statement

The works from the series ‘silent witness’ are based on an idea about the interaction and interrelationship between humans and animals, nature and culture, that has existed for centuries within the practice of falconry. The works act as metaphors of the struggle for control over nature, the imprecise and empirical endeavours to harness the wildness of the raptor. The raptors wear elaborate hoods, not to disguise their identity, but to temporarily emasculate their innate wildness.

Falconry is a way of humanity harnessing wild nature. It is not domestication or taming. It is a way of working with nature that pays respect to both species, human and beast. Arguably it is for the benefit of both species.

The work also touches upon the anthropomorphic tendencies that dwell in the human psyche. The raptors are drawn head and shoulders, a composition equivalent to the ‘bust’ in classical portraiture. It is conceivable to attribute human qualities to these ‘raptor portraits’. They could appear disdainful, aloof, stoic, even contemplative. Anthropomorphism assists us in relating to the natural world, aids our comprehension and assimilation of the natural world order to a human order, a hierarchy of humanity, where we sit at the pinnacle, looking down.

It is impossible to imagine a different world, destabilised to a point where humanity is looked down upon by the natural world, where we are not in control.

My thoughts on this series of work are that nature has become a silent witness to the destabilising forces that humanity exerts upon this world.

The Lyrebird

The mythology of the Lyrebird stretches back to Aboriginal lore. It is the bird that resolved the first dispute between all creatures. It was rewarded by the spirits for its role as peacemaker, and given the ability to communicate with all other animals.

The work is a synthesis of a number of things, life and death, beauty and the macabre, the natural world and the technological world, and the way the natural world is used to symbolize national character.  The lyrebird has been used on an Australian Stamp issue.

The lyrebird is a symbol of beauty, mystery and exuberance and the tail feather skulls reference the idea of opposing realms within mortality, the cycle of life and death. When these opposites are distilled in the imaginative space, the synthesis results in ambiguity and irony, a slightly vexed expression of reality.

It is a metaphysical reality, an underlying reflection on the nature of, and vital connections that exist in the world we inhabit.

The lyrebird’s ability to mimic ‘calls’, not only from nature but from encroaching urban sonic environments, acts as a metaphor for the integration and assimilation of man made and natural environments. In my immersive virtual reality environment I have constructed a soundtrack that samples lyrebird mimicry, including other bird calls and industrial sounds as well as sounds that I have appropriated from the natural and urban environments.

dE/dt = f(A,G,I) / dE/dt =f(H), is the title of the graphite and neon work. This mathematical equation (the Anthropocene Equation) explains the earth’s rate of change where H stands for humanity. Humanity is driving rapid change. This ghostly image, a drawing of a lyrebird in display mode, is highlighted by a neon light which echoes the two main tail feathers and frames the skulls at the end of the feathers. The lyrebird is a product of an evolutionary history; the neon intervention is a product of humanity. Science frames nature and nature is illuminated by science.

Co-existence is possible.

About the artist

Martin King has had over 40 solo exhibitions throughout Australia and has exhibited in many group exhibitions both in Australia and Internationally.

He has been awarded a number of prizes and awards including:

2015 Innaugural Gippsland Print award, Gippsland Gallery, Sale VIC

2014 Rio Tinto Alcan Martin Hanson Memorial prize, Gladstone Art Gallery, QLD

2006 The Broken Hill Outback Art Award

2006 Works on Paper Prize, Salon de Montsalvat, Montsalvat Gallery, VIC

2003 McGivern Art Prize , Maroondah Art Gallery, VIC

1999 Third prize at the 3rd Kochi International Triennial of prints in Japan

1999 Honorable Mention, Bharat Bhavan International Print Biennale in India

1997 Artist Book Prize at the Fremantle Print Award, WA

Martin is represented collections including the British Museum, London UK, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery of S.A, Carleton College Library, Minesotta, USA. Bharat Bhavan Museum, Bhopal, India, Corporate and private collections in Australia and overseas.

Throughout his career, Martin’s work has responded to the Australian landscape, most visibly by making connections between land, sea and air.

‘King’s earlier works on paper traced the movement of rainshadows and the effect of weather patterns across undulating terrain and vast tracts of desert. His more recent works, express the fragility of our relationship with nature using simple motifs that convey a paradoxical vision of the Australian landscape as both tranquil and unsettling’.

(Marita Smith 2015)

He works in printmaking, drawing, painting and animation.