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the edge of the alphabet

August 27 - September 21, 2019

Martin Poppelwell
back gallery - installation view
back gallery - installation view
Martin Poppelwell has presented just two grid paintings in the back gallery: the 2000mm square study for an ancient artifact, and opposite, the smaller 1200mm square study for dapple. They have a softness about their palette – matt black against the sized ochre canvas – but there is drama in their contrasting scale. The big painting offers the grid as a restless myriad of comparatively fine lines. They stop and they start. They sometimes fold back on themselves and don’t even meet, which is unruly to say the least. This is the grid as maverick – wilful, playful and deliberately quixotic – all held together dutifully by a line around the painting’s outside edge.

Martin’s exhibition is called the edge of the alphabet, after an early Janet Frame novel. There are two very short passages from the novel, from pp22 and 224, nailed up within the show. One references “the edge of the alphabet where words crumble…”, where communication falters, but where others (or other modes including the visual perhaps?) may find speech. Poppelwell’s interest is in the diagrammatic, in language, in form that may lack legibility to some, but for others is robust enough a scaffold for all sorts of ideas.
back gallery - installation view

Herein lies the richness of Poppelwell’s grids. Porous and decrepit even, they still bristle with pattern and life. Study for dapple surges and swells – its dark, viscous oil paint confidently untethered in parts, yet utterly, utterly right. In fiction, Dapple was a pesky quadruped. In painting this is an experience deeply satisfying.


study for an ancient artifact
study for an ancient artifact


study for an ancient artifact - detail
study for an ancient artifact (detail)


study for dapple
study for dapple


Details of works

study for an ancient artifact, 2019       acrylic on canvas       2000 x 2000mm       $26,000

study for dapple, 2019       oil on canvas       1200 x 1200mm       $12,000

Prices include GST




Martin Poppelwell and study for dapple
Martin Poppelwell and study for dapple (Photo: Megan Poppelwell)