Sue Martin is a South African artist, working primarily in mixed media.
She grew up in the early 60’s in rural Natal. From an early age, she was fascinated by the creative process and went on to study a Fine Arts Degree at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
Her work is experimental, including all mediums from painting to photography and mixed media. Her technique explores the use of oil pigments that often sit on the surface, hovering above the landscape. There is a sense of the figures being displaced from their surroundings. “Art is about a journey, an exploration of something that is new and relevant to me. “
The subject matter is periodic and offers a snapshot, a moment captured in time. her images include the depiction of migrant labourers, farm workers, mineworkers, subject matter that is relevant to her growing up on a farm and observing the ebb and flow of the rural workforce particularly in South Africa and the surrounding African countries. travel plays a huge role in her works as she documents her visual journey in her depictions of cultural landscapes.
The idea of the “Urban Cowboy” is a motif Martin often incorporates in her work. The relevance of identity and culture and how they intertwine is one of her primary focuses. Martin draws inspiration from archival photographs and old photographic techniques. The layering process explores the laying of history and time, interpretations and scripts over people and places.
These people often take on a momentous quality. “ They become “heroic” within the context of my work,” cites Sue.
Her subject matter spans her two lives between Natal and Johannesburg. All these people who have come from a rural life to seek their fortune, these rural herdsmen earning their living from herding trollies of paper and plastic around Johannesburg.
Currently, Sue is working on a series that looks at another side of the “City of Gold.” The men that have left their homelands to come and work in the mines. Sue has used archival photographs as well as her own images that she has taken of abandoned mines, which she has transferred onto steel sheeting. Like the faded photographs, Sue is creating “veils” of colour by applying layers of beeswax and oil pigment which are fused together by heating with a flame, before applying a new layer. “This gives the painting a washed out, faded quality, similar to the photo archives,” describes Sue.
The mines, like the photographic archives, are becoming a fading memory. “I am trying to capture that elusiveness, called time,” concludes Sue.