Show Your Hope

Show your Hope is a mobile art exhibition by Dutch storyteller Mr Martin who has been travelling all over the world with a van full of paintings since 2003. The idea is simple - Mr Martin works with international artists providing them with a small canvas and asks them to respond to the phrase ‘show your hope’ in whatever way they see best. He then comes back at a later date to collect the finished artwork and add it to his collection. Impressively, over the 12 years since he started he has amassed 860 works, only 10% of which are currently on display at his static stand in the courtyard of C nova.

The key strength of the exhibition is in the diversity of work on display within the limits of a uniform-issue canvas and a specified theme.

Every day during the Fringe, Mr Martin presents a selection of paintings in 15-minute sessions telling the story of the project and explaining the origins of different works. ‘15 minutes’ should be taken with a pinch of salt – the performance we saw was nearer 40, and Mr Martin himself confessed ‘I could talk for seven hours’. It is easy to see why he finds it hard to stop as each painting has a unique story behind it.

Mr Martin tells anecdotes around the paintings rather than explaining their meaning in any great detail, which is a wise decision because it avoids disappointing those for whom the reality does not live up to their imagined interpretation. Mr Martin is a natural storyteller, warmly welcoming his audience. He talks so passionately about the work it is hard not to be infected with his enthusiasm, a feeling he encourages by actively asking questions and introducing ‘experiments’ to induce discussion. One such experiment was to take a painting and ask an audience member to say without pausing to think what the painting was about. Our shy, tentative answers were greeted with gusto by Mr Martin: ‘After all, with art there are no wrong answers’.

The key strength of the exhibition is in the diversity of work on display within the limits of a uniform-issue canvas and a specified theme. The experience is a little like people watching, each canvas a different and personal response to a universal theme. The artists represented range in age from 12 to 84, from the totally unknown amateur to the famous professional, which inevitably means the quality varies quite considerably. Mr Martin drew out work by artists from Iran, Sarajevo, Goa and Macedonia amongst others introducing us to some of the lively characters he has met along his journey including a Yugoslavian rock star, a drug addict who painted a beautiful ink self-portrait, and an artist whose painting was still soaking wet when Mr Martin came to collect it. Mr Martin talks about different paintings each time so this is definitely one to come back to between shows. 

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

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The Blurb

Mr Martin has travelled the world in a van crammed with art to collect his intriguing exhibition. Parking up in Edinburgh, he will guide you through a labyrinth of images and breathe life into the paintings, the artists, and the stories behind them. An ever-surprising journey through the mind and images. Let yourself be taken through endless new dimensions of paintings and perceptions.