Written by Christopher Cudworth
Colors of Water, an exhibition of work by Resident Artist Dave Martin at Water Street Studios, invites viewers into a world where senses are heightened and a sense of wonder restored.
His two largest works are titled Pfeiffer Beach, California. The companion paintings render the subtle color of the sky above the sea and the wash of light over rocks exposed by the tide. But it is the cliffs of stone weathered by thousands of ocean years that share the character of the place.
Martin is humble about his work. “I’m not sure that rock isn’t a little too green,” he remarked during a tour of the watercolor exhibit. But visitors object. “That’s what makes is sing,” someone says. And Martin smiles. “I suppose so,” he muses.
Such is the life of a watercolor artist. It is not a science of perfection, but a performance of sorts that winds up soaking partially into the surface that makes each painting unique. And indeed, Martin’s skies often seem like they let light through from the back of the painting.
His epic rendering of Glacier National Park celebrates the stoic purple face of a mountain facing the west side of the Continental Divide. One sees the small traces of trails cut into the lower reaches of a mountain. That’s where people hike along a section of green alpine vegetation called the Garden Wall. But the mountain opposite the green pastures rears back as if to make that statement that it will persist despite the fact that snows and glaciers gracing its ledges are melting much faster than they once did.
Above and behind the incredible mountain face are churlish clouds that threaten rain and remind one that the mountain environment is never to be trifled with.
Likewise the painting titled Clouds Over Glacier captures mist-laden shoulders of anvil-shaped peaks where the lake below turns murky and dark. People who visit places such as Glacier recognize the fact that the weather will not always cooperate. The clouds often tumble down the slopes in avalanche fashion. Martin captures the solemnity and silence of these moments, and watercolor may be the perfect medium with which to do so.
His equally lyrical Yellow Mountains, China truly is a tip of the watercolor hat to the Chinese artists that have for centuries painted these same mountains to speak about matters spiritual, sensual and mystical. The upthrusted rocks seems to have souls of their own. Some are tipped by small trees that at once show the scale and temperament of the place. Clouds of mist huddle next to the peaks as if daring adventurers to enter a place so cloaked in white.
It is no coincidence that next to the Chinese mountain painting hangs a contemplative piece called Koi. It depicts the calm presence of fish in a pool where one can see down into the water in places. Yet a dance of green leaves is reflected on the surface. Some of these leaf shapes seem to additionally reflect the shape of the fish hanging just below the surface. One might better call the painting “coy” rather than Koi.
Martin’s watercolors of rocky streams happily celebrate the boulders found where colors of brown and blue and green compete for attention. Meanwhile his more touristy studies of Tuscany and Lake Windermere are exercises in watercolor mastery that climb around the paper alternating washes and details.
Fellow artists will appreciate Martin’s economy and proficiency. Art lovers and tourists can enjoy the sense of place he captures without fussing too much or leaving anything out. In all, a fulfilling show for everyone.