Portrait image courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald, February 2009
MARTINE EMDUR- THE ART OF IMMERSION What could possess more elemental duality than water? It is the source of life and the prime force of nature, it is both sanctuary and menacing enigma. As a perpetual muse and technical challenge it is a subject that painter Martine Emdur can fathom in work after work. And with this she has created a unique continuum where the nuances of light, shadow, scale and protean buoyant movement become more palpable with each brush stroke and each new composition. Just as clouds disintegrate and re-form, water is in a continual state of renewal and restless movement.
Into this realm Emdur plunges bodies and creates a subterranean theatre where silence replaces time and ambiguity is a constant. Living by the sea, painting the sea and submerging her models into the skin of the water she has endless patience for the gradations and the shifting mutability of her element: “With each painting I notice another detail letting me understand and further capture the subtleties.” Her work is not just (sea)scape. It is also portraiture, a highly original extension of the figurative into the abstract. The sea being the ultimate abstract field: a seamless realm of light and colour. It is also a treasury of metaphors and wishes. For this painter a body in water alone can signify “surrender, fluidity, calm” and the meeting of two bodies (which increasingly the new work explores). Anatomy in the picture conveys something more: union, erotic fantasy, tension. This work is highly sense based. It can make you shiver or melt or feel a very human vulnerability in the face of shadows, depths and uncharted perimeters. The sea embraces and engulfs and Emdur seeks to engage the eye in the same dynamic.
She works in light and shadow but the physical reality of the ocean is always in the foreground. Step into the image and you are immediately in over your head, suspended, weightless, sometimes spellbound. "The scale is key, I want people to stand in front of my paintings and get the feeling of being immersed. And I think about the temperature of the water even more than the light. The temperature is everything in my paintings. I love a warm-blooded body in a cool body of water. I love the light and warmth from the sun streaming through the top of the picture where the body has pierced the surface and then all the shadows give the sensation of the cold, more mysterious water below."
Unlike David Hockney’s static tiled swimming pools, broken by bodies and glittering in the sun. Or unlike Claude Monet’s scumbled melting water lily ponds, the water in a Martine Emdur painting is not just a formal convention for exploring space in a painting or a palette of cool colours. It is, quite simply, a place that you can feel. And the range of sensations shifts from figure to figure, molten sunbeam to icy undercurrent. In the new works there is a tension between freedom and fear “between the joy of floating and the darkness and mystery of the water” but there is also a universal beauty: calming, ancient, returning in on itself in the endless tug of the tide.
Anna Johnson, August 2013