“There is a playfulness…”
Wonky grids, dirty jokes, the a-b-c and literary quotations appear in the pottery and painting of Martin Poppelwell. Elegant, monochromatic, idiosyncratic scrawls and a cheerful palette of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet migrate throughout the various media he explores.
Poppelwell’s use of text continues the New Zealand tradition of writing on paintings, whether it be a quote by Katherine Mansfield or commentary on contemporary life, including religion, television or the Aids epidemic. Poppelwell’s works often include instructions, titles and crudely written words but he always falls back on basic shapes: ripples, lines and his trademark grids. As well the artist’s everyday surroundings such as the apricot tree in his backyard, Poppelwell’s visual references include cartoon characters and ironic repetitions of trendy design motifs such as the swan or skull.
Graphic and illustrative, Poppelwell’s work deftly negotiates a titanic range of media and commissions. Installations, oil, printmaking, watercolour, printmaking, ink, acrylic, enamels, varnish, canvas, paper and clay have all been manipulated and made fodder for Poppelwell’s voracious practice. Drawing is central to all of Poppelwell’s works and the line or a schematic outline is constantly utilised. Frequently Poppelwell’s works are layered up, from clay or canvas, to glaze and underpainting, to thick irregular outlines, sketches, text and colours. Poppelwell’s work ranges from large-scale paintings to placings of onomatopoeic shards of pottery, shattered fragments with comic book like bubbles of text or speech. Poppelwell’s painted squiggles also correspond to roughly modelled ceramic figurines. Tradition and functionality of pottery are toyed with, Poppelwell combines the literal with the literary as he renders vases, jugs, bowls and plates blank pieces of paper which he then marks with his idiosyncratic vernacular.
Massaging the distinction between the applied arts and contemporary art Poppelwell’s works are bundles of different artistic languages. Self-consciously dissolving meaning, using appropriation of images and quotation, often his painted words and images are incomplete or backwards, meaning and form slips and slops around. Frequently the artist’s works seem mere coloured in outlines as cursorily drawn forms are filled in. By writing that many of his works are “studies” and making these studies strangely public, Poppelwell makes his studio practice ridiculously transparent, tending to give us too much information. Poppelwell’s practice is familiar, casual and nonchalant. An exploration of object making, whether it be a large plate or a canvas, Poppelwell’s work teeters between sense and nonsense, creating ceramics one can read and paintings that are built.
Martin Poppelwell (b. 1968) a full-time artist based in Hawke’s Bay, studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in the early 1990’s and later studied under potter Ross Mitchell-Anyon in Whanganui. Since he has exhibited works locally and nationally in private galleries as well as public art institutions. Recent solo exhibitions include: The Artist Pushes Roses (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2012), APRICOT (Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, 2010), New Works on Paper (Solander Gallery, Wellington, 2010) and Serviette: Martin Poppelwell Ceramic Works 1993-2007 (The Suter Gallery, Nelson, 2007). He has also exhibited in public institutions within curated exhibitions such as: Raising Boys (Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery, Napier, 2008), Birds, The Art of New Zealand Bird Life (Pataka Museum and Art Gallery, Porirua, 2006) and The Art of Portraiture (Te Tuhi, Pakuranga, 2003). Poppelwell’s practice has been explored in essays by renowned New Zealand craft critics Damien Skinner and Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins and he has been featured in recent publications such as Richard Wolfe’s “Artists at Work: New Zealand Painters & Sculptors in the Studio” (2010). Additionally, Poppelwell has been featured in major New Zealand periodicals such as: Art New Zealand, Art News New Zealand, Urbis and Home.
For additional information and a complete CV please contact the gallery.
 Martin Poppelwell, in Aaron Watson “Object: Image” Artzone September October, Wellington, 2005, p.49.
A Storage Problem
Kim Paton, Objectspace exhibition catalogue
MARTIN POPPELWELL discusses his ceramic practise
Vimeo, Melanie Roger Gallery
KISS THE MOON
Martin Poppelwell, exhibition catalogue
Lucy Hammonds, exhibition catalogue
INTERVIEW WITH MARTIN POPPELWELL
Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand
Nicole Stock, Urbis
AN ARTIST'S PROGRESS
Jeremy Hansen, Home
MARTIN POPPELWELL: BEING THERE WHEN IT HAPPENS
Richard Wolfe, Artists at Work, Random House
A FINE LINE
Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, Home
Aaron Watson, Art Zone
Mary Shanahan, Urbis
- Martin Poppelwell | Index | Hastings City Art Gallery
- White Night | Auckland Festival 2016
- MARTIN POPPELWELL | A Storage Problem | Objectspace as part of Auckland Festival
- Martin Poppelwell | Empire of Dirt | Objectspace
- Gallery Vimeo Channel
- Public Programmes | Gavin Hurley & Martin Poppelwell Artist Talks
- Martin Poppelwell & Max Gimblett Collaboration | Workshop
- MARTIN POPPELWELL | Form | Papakura Art Gallery
- Martin Poppelwell publication
- ART NEW ZEALAND Magazine texts
- Martin Poppelwell | High St Mural