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.