Friday, November 18, 2016

Martin Mugar: The Light That Shines From Within

"I started building the images of letters, merging nature and culture."

Martin Mugar at Bromfield, 2013

A few years back Martin Mugar hit a beautiful wall. His work had arrived at such a sublime place that he might as well have disappeared in the morning mist, taken a swan dive off the precipice where he found himself. It was time to shake things up. It was a beautiful thing, but his journey was far from over. It was time to retrace his steps and find another path. Maybe something a little rockier.


For fifteen years Martin Mugar had evolved and fine tuned his spiritual vision of dissolving color, energy, and matter into light; an almost ironic, even paradoxical experience created by using a painting process of thick, heavy, encaustic impasto that seemed more like relief sculpture than painting. The power of these works and the heights Mugar achieved is undeniable. They are unlike anything else. Impossible to quantify.

Martin Mugar, 2014, #46, 48" x 44"

It is a true measure of their originality that no one knows quite what to make of them. They are otherworldly, almost aloof. They are like the daughter that no man is good enough for. Martin Mugar has staked his entire life and career on this work. Instead of turning back when he received too little critical acclaim for all of his prodigious efforts, he doubled down and pushed on. One day museums will make his curious pastry-like confections of pure light the cornerstone of their collections, but until then he does what he does, like some sailor explorer, painting away in his studio near the water in Southern New Hampshire.

Martin Mugar, 2010, 44" x 42"

Near the water is important. Martin Mugar sails his boat in those waters. He catches the light that breathes life into his paintings. Out on the water is a sanctuary of sorts, as is his studio, as is his work.

Martin Mugar, 2014, 42" x 44"

So when he had gone as far as he could go, he made a change. He started out with a switch from the simple form of a stroke, a mark, a squiggle, to the more complex gesture of letters and words and calligraphy. Who could have predicted where this would go? At first glance the paintings looked somewhat the same. A closer inspection however revealed the letters and possible words they formed in the sea of pastel colors that had become his trademark and avenue to luminosity. Letters and words in a great jumble that call out, cry out, fermenting a great poetry, fomenting a great poetry, bursting out in song, in longing, in yearning, in eloquence, in prose, in rage, in sweetness and in pain. A great orgasmic graffiti battle, part tourette's, part scatological orgy, part wild celebration, of transcendence, ascendance, revelation, and triumph.

Detail, Martin Mugar

These complex forms within forms opened the door to the most recent paintings. The new marks look like more scribbles in paint, but they become so much more than just letters; each one is like a small sculpture. Each one is a small sculpture inside of the larger monolithic, monochromatic wall of a  Mugar sculpture/painting. They are like figures. Like the figures on Rodin's Gates of Hell. The way they nest inside the larger work, inhabit the larger work, allows for endless joy and adventure and expression and discovery. There is great drama there. Great passion. Great power and humanity and cosmic force. A great swirl of cosmic force that opens up new worlds.

Detail, Rodin's Gates of Hell

Martin Mugar, 2016, #67, 29" x 24"(detail)

This is a great advancement in the work. A great step forward to a new and bright horizon. There is no overstating the magnitude of this breakthrough. There is no overstating the significance and magnificence of this breakthrough in terms of the larger oeuvre of Martin Mugar's personal victory as an artist.

Martin Mugar, 2016, #67, 29" x 24"

And as grand as this breakthrough is, the innocence and exuberance that has always been in his work is still there. The essential playfulness is still there, but even more so. The light is still there, but it is different. It is not as much the light from the sun, directly, but more the light that radiates from plants and flowers and fruit. A marvelous vibrancy. It is the great light that shines from within. Martin Mugar has found his way through his beautiful wall of light. He has found his way ashore again. He has found his way back to the garden.

Martin Mugar, 2016, #66, 27" x 24"

Martin Mugar, 2016, #64, 50" x 41"

Martin Mugar, 2016, #63, 24" x 22"

Addison Parks
Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill, November, 2016

Martin Mugar

1 comment:

Addison Parks said...

I was a little frustrated that I was unable, in my mind at any rate, to do much more than scratch the surface about this new development that I saw in the work: the complex figure forms that emerged thanks to the letters. I may take another run at it.