Informed by medieval imagery, various literary genres, and a deep connection to printed books, the paintings of Martyn Cross (b. 1975, Yate, United Kingdom) are at once earthbound and celestial, reveling in the mystical power of vast, otherworldly landscapes. Working with a distinctive, muted color palette, Cross layers scratched and scrubbed dry-brushed pigment to yield a weathered, worn texture glowing with the internal luminosity of medieval manuscripts and frescoes. "I see the paintings […] as objects as much as I do paintings," the artist says. "They are things that in their creation are held and caressed and physically roughed-up, all with the intention of creating some kind of surface history."
Cross's work ranges in scale from the intimate to the monumental. His small-scale paintings delve into uncanny, spiritual worlds that borrow equally from medieval religiosity and the early 20th-century speculative literary genre known as weird fiction. In these compressed yet powerful landscapes, the familiar morphs into the strange and unsettling--human figures transform into mountains, eyes become suns and flames, teeth turn into comets. In recent large-scale works, monstrous bodies come to inhabit these unearthly places. Roots or underground tunnels emerge as nearly human skeletons and storm clouds grow feet and heads. In its insistent unsettling of time, place, and being, Cross's work is ultimately ambiguous and puzzling, leaving the viewer to find their own way through the worlds he has created.
Cross holds a BA in Fine Art from Bath Spa University. He has exhibited at galleries and institutions across the United Kingdom and internationally, including Hales London; Ratio 3, San Francisco, CA; OSHSH Projects, London; Oceans Apart, Manchester; Bath Spa University; Spike Island, Bristol; LIMBO, Margate; Stroud Museum, UK; and Kettles Yard, Cambridge, among others. A Thought Sublime, a 2021 group exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery, was Cross's first exhibition in the United States. Cross lives and works in Bristol, United Kingdom.