The Power Plant

Simon Martin: Wednesday Afternoon

Simon Martin

Past Exhibition

Mar 24 – May 27 2006


Simon Martin, Still from Wednesday Afternoon, 2005. Video, 12 min. Courtesy the artist and White Columns.


Reid Shier

The Power Plant is proud to present the Canadian debut of British artist Simon Martin. Martin's Wednesday Afternoon – which premiered to great acclaim at London's Counter Gallery in March 2005 – is a 12-minute film in which an anonymous narrator gives an account of his days spent wandering through London's museums. Wednesday Afternoon posits a subjective inquiry into how we spend time and how we value that experience. As the film’s narrator explains, "What I want to do is capture the magic of looking at people and things. I want to do this without disrupting what is there or altering anything that might happen…suspending conclusions and resolutions, keeping things open, somehow remaining critical." Juxtaposing the historical figure of the flâneur with the theatre and abundance of the museum, Wednesday Afternoon is a profound and poetic meditation on the acts of looking, thinking and passing time.

Eschewing spectacle, Simon Martin's work offers a sustained contemplation of materiality, evolving over the past fifteen years through a series of discrete, but conceptually related, investigations into the act, and activity, of making and thinking about art. Through painting, sculpture, and more recently film, Martin’s practice explores and explodes the limits of these disciplines. Wednesday Afternoon arose out of Martin's dissatisfaction with today’s overabundance of things, and represents a shift from making objects to contemplating them. In the past, he produced paintings and sculptures using found objects and images, but he became frustrated by their inability to shrug off their corporeal density. His early work employed a lengthy, sometimes glacial, process of creation at odds with his subjects. For Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (1998–99), for instance, he spent a year learning how to paint in a photorealist style so as to depict the blur of an instant image. In the sculptural work Monkiness is the Whatness of All Monkey (2000–3), Martin spent three years creating a smooth white sphere, perfect in form except for the face of a toy monkey superimposed upon it. The project was inspired by an offhand quote by Willem de Kooning: “If you have nothing to do and want to meditate and have no inspiration, it might be a good idea to make a sphere.” The incongruity and mystery of seeing a child’s plaything incorporated within such austere formalism are exacerbated by the questions of intention posed by de Kooning’s advice. In this space of uncertainty, Martin’s work provokes our compulsion to look, luxuriating in the sometimes hypnotic nature of our fascination with objects we don’t readily understand.

Wednesday Afternoon is narrated by Richard Noble, with sound by Chris Tosic.

Video, 12 min. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Video, 12 min. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Video, 12 min. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.