Martyn Cross (b. 1975, Yate, UK) holds a BA in Fine Art from Bath Spa University. He lives and works in Bristol, UK.

 

Cross is primarily a painter engaged with ‘world making.’[1] The act of painting for him is a means to explore the inner life and strangeness of the ordinary. Each work begins in reality, with recognizable limbs and elements of landscape, which transform into uncanny scenes.

 

Cross has firmly cemented himself in Bristol’s painting scene, engaging in studio visits, talks and critiques, his creative milieu has allowed for a consistent sharing of ideas. For twenty years, Cross’s practice ran alongside being a book seller. 2020 was a pivotal year — the world shutting down impelled Cross to pursue art making full time, resulting in a prolific practice. 

 

In the studio Cross surrounds himself with the eclectic things that inspire him, including images of medieval wall painting, old English churches, the work of Forest Bess, Cecil Collins and William Blake, to science fiction books and walking sticks. The myriad of inspiration enters subconsciously into the work. Reoccurring motifs emerge — billowing clouds, tumbling waterfalls, oversized pointing fingers and bright suns create an immersive world. Biomorphic landscapes speak to mythologies, but in Cross’s paintings the narratives are knowingly ambiguous. Familiar and mysterious, quiet and epic, scale and irregularity in proportion puzzles the viewer.  Questions remain unanswered and meaning remains a mystery to the artist himself. 

 

These worlds pour out of Cross, initially making drawings in sketchbooks, oil pastels and large charcoal works, he explores limitless possibilities for paintings. Paintings are made in contemplative layers; the pigments remain vibrant – his application and exquisite use of colour creates works that hum. Sanding and scratching the surface, Cross strives to make paintings that have lived a life, the trace of their existence evident. Deliberately hard to place in history, there is a timelessness to Cross’s paintings, reminiscent of unearthed artifacts.

 

Cross has exhibited work at many galleries, nationally and internationally, including Hales London; Marianne Boesky, NY; Ratio 3, Los Angeles, CA; OSHSH Projects, London; Oceans Apart, Manchester; Bath Spa University; Spike Island, Bristol; LIMBO, Margate; Stroud Museum, UK; Kettles Yard, Cambridge, among others. Cross' debut show at Hales, O happiness! happiness! is currently on view through 17 December 2022.

 


[1] Martyn Cross, phone conversation, September 2022