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This selection of paintings relates to a Cosmological theme I have been working on for many years.
After I left Wimbledon School of Art in 1971 I had exhibited work in Hungary and the UK. It was through meeting artists on the continent such as Laslo Gyemant and Ernst Fuchs that I learned the old masters mixed technique of painting. This was an important step as it treated painting as a more scientific activity. The old masters has discovered a method of painting which was able to make colour glow even in low light.
Traditionally early Italian old masters painted with tempera on panels or murals with fresco. In the 14th Century there was a fusion of painting techniques that culminated with the “mixed technique” of oil painting in Flanders. Jan van Eyck 1390-1441 was a chief exponent of this new technique which he is regarded to have invented. Later the work of Pieter Bruegel 1525-69 and Johannes Vermeer 1632-1675 was directly influenced by this method of painting. It was the northern European painters that excelled in the technique which in turn influenced the Italian Renaissance painters such as Leonardo da Vinci 1452-1519 and Titian 1490-1576.
With the arrival of the Baroque and Rococo periods the technique of painting changed to the more widely used “all prima” method and the old mixed technique gradually died out. Since Neoclassical times most painting has been “alla prima” and it allowed a more spontaneous approach which heralded the revolution in Art and Culture at the turn of the 20th century which spawned Modern Art with all its different movements.
It was not until the 1950s that the old masters mixed technique was rediscovered by a modern painter Ernst Fuchs ( born 1930 ) in Austria. The Vienna school of artists had been established at the beginning of the 20th century by Schiele, Klimt, Kokoshka and Hundertwasser who were were it’s luminaries. During my teens I used to visit my parents who lived in Vienna and it was there I discovered the Viennese School. Later in 1969 I attended a summer school in Hungary where I became friends with the a prominent Hungarian artist Lazlo Gyemant. It was through him I had an exhibition at the University of Architecture in Budapest. At that time this was the epicentre of the avant-guarde! But this caused an uproar as my “decadent art from the west” was boycotted by the Communist youth party which insisted that the show be closed down. In the end a compromise was reached and the exhibition ran for a few days. The work was well received by the Budapest art scene and I sold many works. It appeared that things were going well and an exhibition was arranged at a gallery in Blutgasse Vienna with the idea of moving there. But disaster struck in 1975 when I received a letter saying that the gallery had ceased and I was left with work nobody wanted in London. In 1976 I returned to Austria and attended The Fuchs Academy to study the “mixed technique”.
The basis of the “mixed technique” originates from the use of the egg which had been used in tempera painting since ancient Egyptian times and was widely used throughout Italy in the 12th century. It is the unique quality of the egg that is used to create an emulsion that combines fat and non fat. The unique properties of the egg allows a variation on miscibility and forms the medium. The emulsion preserves the brightness of pigment in subtle ways. It explains why paintings have have not lost their luminosity and permanence. This is the main advantage of the technique. One of the reasons why this method of painting was employed was that paintings were mainly viewed in churches which were dark. Altar pieces had to shine and inspire awe in the congregation.
I have been using the mixed technique since the beginning of the 1970s, it has provided a foundation for my projects. I did try to teach it to my contemporaries but they did not take to it because the system imposes a fixed method of working and is labour intensive . It seemed that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits and with recent developments in contemporary art painting has been replaced by digital manipulation.
Using traditional painting materials to explore the cosmos. I am fascinated by what other worlds might look like and how to record them with paint. Light, space, time and the unseen are almost impossible to express within the limits of pigments but this has not deterred exploration. The results are symbolic of a striving humanity.
Being interested in representing other worlds and phenomena in pictorial terms. Each painting is a record of an interaction between pigment and time subject to the laws of this world. Scientists are engaged in the search and understanding of origins of life. There are many questions about what is antimatter. This idea has fascinated me and is represented by works such as, “Antimatter” and “Antimatter Diptych”.
Other works such as “Cosmic energy” attempt to record an infinite source of energy. The crosses serve as a measuring device that has employed in other works. These are fragments and mementos of a journey upon which I have found myself travelling, much of which is beyond and incomprehensible.
Martin Hewer 2014
Enquiries to: -
martinhewer@***blueyonder.co.uk (remove asterixes)
I met Martin Hewer through a mutual interest in a horticultural project and we soon discovered that we also had overlapping interests in the awesome and astonishing universe at large. When he showed me his paintings I felt astounded at their mysterious beauty and in awe of the dedication and craftsmanship devoted to their creation. Martin kindly agreed to allow me to mount a small exhibition of his work on this site for your pleasure and inspiration.