In the late summer I went to Cork with the filmmaker Cathy Sayers to make a short film about the work of Martin Finnin. He had just taken over the dusty, former studio of one of Ireland’s last church sculptors. In corners and under ledges, huddled the grey, plaster casts of unpainted Saints and Madonnas who gently looked on as Finnin talked about his work, his ideas and the process of painting. His working day is as much spent thinking about a painting, leaving it alone and then returning to have another look, as it is about applying paint or mixing colours. It may take until the evening before he begins and then he may work late through the night ending up asleep in the studio.

Over the last year those plaster Saints had been the only audience for his paintings as they slowly progressed, layer by layer: rubbed back, reworked and sometimes reorientated. Painting is a very private process and can’t be conjured up for the camera, so he invited us back later that night - if he was painting, then we could film him at work.

Happily, with music masking our return, Finnin was already underway on a canvas in its first stages before applying strong fluid strokes of light green paint onto a red ground, obliterating the careful earlier lines of preliminary drawings. This sudden blooming of colour in the cold, gothic night of the studio was joyously dramatic, breathing oxygen into the walls and statues of this incongruous place.

For an artist whose finished paintings accumulate traces of every stage in a lengthy process, a film provides a deeper understanding of the artist, his ideas and the process than any number of books, catalogues and essays. The studio tells the whole story and a film conveys that experience better than anything else. - (John Martin, 2013)

John Martin Gallery
38 Albemarle Street
London W1S 4JG Unted Kingdom
Ph. +44 (0)20 74991314

Opening hours
Monday - Friday from 10am to 6pm
Saturday from 11am to 4pm or by appointment

Related images

  1. Martin Finnin, Renegade amongst the dusty nouns, 183 x 120 cm, oil on canvas
  2. Martin Finnin, A Side Effect of Yellow, 102 x 122 cm
  3. Martin Finnin, A Yellow Yes at Large, 120 x 160 cm
  4. Martin Finnin, Abandon the notion of upward falling, 120 x 183 cm, oil on canvas
  5. Martin Finnin, The Tower of Babbling, 100 x 150 cm, oil on canvas
  6. Martin Finnin, The Paradise Gene and the Lemon Line, 183 x 120 cm