Will Martyr: You Gave Me Paradise presented at Unit London, 27 May – 3 July

Will Martyr in his studio
Will Martyr in his studio

Unit London is delighted to announce that You Gave Me  Paradise, Will Martyr’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, will open on 27th May 2021. Martyr’s work explores the relationship between memories, people and their environments. He examines how our surroundings impact our emotional states, as well as our desires.

You Gave Me Paradise sees Martyr develop his practice to incorporate figures, a transition he has been thinking about for many years. This body of work continues to depict the rarefied yet universally familiar locations of rest and relaxation that were so prominent in Wanderlust (2017) and Fathoms (2018), however the inclusion of figures imbues the pieces with an increased sense of humanity. In this exhibition, Martyr reflects on the beauty and strength of intimate relationships, charting how they evolve and grow stronger over time. His deckchairs add an immersive element to the exhibition, transporting viewers to a space of relaxation and rest. They reinforce the exhibition’s overarching theme of warmth and companionship and are reminiscent, for the artist, of his fondest memories with his wife. 

In Martyr’s past two exhibitions the works depicted sleek, modernist interiors set within expansive landscapes that were simultaneously seductive yet impossibly utopian. Martyr has kept these alluring locations in the work, yet his attention has now turned to a more personal experience. Looking at his own personal relationships, the artist is meditating on the joy of sharing a life, and how it feels to combine your hopes and aspirations with another’s.

You Gave Me Paradise has an overwhelming feel of warmth and compassion. In placing figures throughout the works, Martyr is introducing companions into his previously uninhabited worlds. The surroundings remain indelibly seductive, but are almost obscured by the close, relaxed, and unguarded human presence. The figures include elements of narrative in the work and increase their ability to act as surfaces for the projection of hopes and memories, allowing the viewer to project onto the piece, escaping into a stylised world with whoever they wish. These works were made following a year in which human connection was drastically restricted; they offer a vibrant sense of hope and resilience, one that chimes with our current enhanced desire to connect with others.

Paul Carey-Kent writes: These paintings are – like love poems – made for a particular muse, and are concerned – like love poems – with the unique qualities of a particular relationship, even if the broad nature of the experience is a common one.