About Allan Martin


Born 1956, Eaglesham, Scotland. In 1978 I left Glasgow School of Art with a Diploma of Art in Printed Textiles and a traveling scholarship. Work in a graphic design studio in Glasgow followed until the latter part of 1981 when I moved to London.

Once in London, I worked as a decorative paint specialist, one project featured as the front cover and article for Interiors magazine. At the same time, my drawings were brought to the attention of a band, and I was commissioned to work exclusively for them as illustrator and designer when they signed to EMI.

Having found my path into graphic design once more, I continued with this direction as a freelance, music and fashion being the main focus. I have since worked with a range of people and companies, many over a period of years.

The Psychedelic Furs

One such contact, and a highlight for me, were The Psychedelic Furs. The band all liked and agreed on my designs, their (almost shocked) manager said that was a first, so work continued embracing various projects, often with my being closely involved creatively with Richard Butler, their lead singer.

I have included a small selection of such design work and collaborative photographs here.

Annie Lennox

Starting in 2003 I have collaborated with friend of many years, Annie Lennox. Annie had long held a fascination for photography, the initial intention being to experiment with the medium, to find our way and explore this new direction together.

This evolved into Annie becoming the subject, and subsequently my becoming graphic designer and creative consultant. Our portraits were used extensively for her album Bare, a tour brochure, press and publicity worldwide and an exhibition in New York. Further albums followed, as did websites, videos and latterly my being very much involved in archiving Annie’s considerable quantity of background material.

Our portraits have been exhibited widely including at the V&A, London. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery acquired two portraits for their permanent collection, featuring one as a highlight in the 2016 joint touring exhibition Facing the World: Self Portraits from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei with the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon.

I have included a small selection of such design work and collaborative photographs here.

A shift in direction

With both parents being art teachers and artists, art had always been around me, remains a constant in my life, a core aspect of my creative interests and who I am.

I adored studying a design discipline at art school, and wanted that rationale as my way forward. The subsequent creative challenges and varied experiences opened to me as I found my way in graphic design were truly valuable and enjoyable.

However, I always intended to explore painting more fully. I like where it leads and relish the challenge. I wanted to find time to paint. Now I have, and it feels right.

 

RECENT BACKGROUND

2012 First solo exhibition in London. Fru Tholstrup, then Director of Haunch of Venison, London, recommended my work to Francesca Gavin curator for Soho House who acquired a painting for the permanent collection of Babington House.

Selected for The Other Art Fair, the selectors commented, “The charisma and individuality of your work makes you stand out from a very strong field of applicants”.

2013 Selected a second time for The Other Art Fair, the organisers invited art critic Rodrigo Cañete to make observations. “In my opinion, one of the three best artists of the one hundred in the show, Mr. Allan Martin is a refined, subtle and fine painterly painter. His palette ranges from black to black with almost monochromatic hues. His iconography borders asphyxia, placing women against a background, dwarfing them in a proportion of one to two thirds which through portraiture places him very near Dutch landscape painting, I am thinking about Ruysdael, for example. The result is wonderful! In his work he manipulates darkness and shadows in a way that reminds me of that third dimension we can see in the Old Masters’ handling of shadows, here I am thinking about Diego Velazquez’s backgrounds and walls.”

2015 Two paintings acquired for the Soho Farmhouse collection. A solo exhibition at Lane House Arts, Bath.

2016 These Dark Woods | Perimeter shortlisted for both the National Open Art Competition and Contemporary British Painting Prize and featured as ‘Painting of the day’.

2017 Fru Tholstrup acquired nine paintings and sixty prints (from four original paintings) for the collection of Hôtel de Crillon, Paris. I am pleased to be so strongly represented in such a prestigious collection of a total of almost 900 works from various artists.

2017 Three paintings shortlisted for the National Open Art Competition, two selected for exhibition, one of which sold to the Marketing Director.

2018 Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year Following my submitting two paintings, the judges unanimously liked my work and I was offered a place in the series as one of the eight artists who feature in each of the first six episodes.

Over these years work exhibited in galleries and at art fairs including The London Art Fair and Affordable Art Fair through bo.lee gallery, Compass Gallery and Edgar Modern.

Among many paintings sold to date Annie Lennox purchased four of the Who She Is series, Michele Clapton, award winning costume designer for Game of Thrones and The Crown bought a key painting from this same series and other work.

The Mark

Stamped on the reverse of paintings when signing them, it is a Hanko (name stamp), used as a signature in Japan and very important for official documents. ALLAN was translated phonetically, to become ‘Asian Iris’, so  ‘AL-AN’. The right hand side of the Hanko, is the AL, the left AN. I have long held an interest in both Japanese and Chinese art, I wrote about Japanese prints for liberal studies when at Glasgow School of Art,