Cameron Martin’s luminous screenprint continues his investigations of landscape painting and our shifting relationship to nature. Published by Highpoint Editions, Conflation was released on November 2, 2006. This 38.5″ x 48″ screenprint.
Like much of Martin’s work, Conflation has a spare, graphic nature at first glance. A panorama of Mount Rainier is rendered in what appears to be a limited palette of muted purple tones. This deceptive simplicity is belied by its carefully nuanced, slight shifts of transparent color—in fact, Conflation has 16 layers and 39 colors in all.
This effect is mirrored in Martin’s paintings and is partly due to his unique working method. Layer by layer he masks off areas he wishes to preserve and adds successively darker tones, repeating this process until each individual “color” becomes a composite of dozens of transparent hues. Screenprinting was a natural choice for the HP project because it parallels Martin’s technique in many ways, and captures the subtle effects that are so important in his paintings.
Yet Martin is well aware that these details can be lost on some. While at Highpoint, he mentioned with humor that it is not uncommon for people to say “how amazed they are at what he can do with only a few colors” when in fact there are 40 or more. In making Conflation he deliberately chose some colors that would only be detected by those willing to dedicate themselves to a careful and quiet viewing. He considers these subtleties to be the rewards of observation for those who take the time to fully engage with a scene.
Color is also significant in Martin’s work as an indicator of our complex and changing ties to the environment. Nature no longer looms large in the collective mind as a terrifying, unbounded force, but rather something more ambiguous—beautiful yet contained, harnessed by industry and used as an empty symbol in product advertisements. Martin’s choice of heightened, slightly out-of-place or “toxic” color reminds us of this sense of unease and ambivalence.