Martyn Cross Spirit Guide, 2007
Selected by Alison Sharkey
The work of Martyn Cross is everything I try and avoid. People with a penchant for posing in cardigans are possessed, degraded, taken to hell. How can so many retro knitting patterns lead to so many dark worlds? Innocent father son scenarios are transformed into predatory sexual encounters. Pretty ladies are made to vomit streams of pink liquid, young angelic boys are transformed into crazed killers.
I spend my life making a concerted effort to avoid such horror as I’m a sensitive soul but I was forced to encounter Cross’s depraved work when showing alongside him at the Exeter Contemporary Open (2009). The saccharin quality of Cross’s source material, often covers of 1970s knitting patterns, may already have the effect of turning the stomach even before Cross has subjected them to a mauling. These transformations are reminiscent of teenage hypnotic magazine doodlings, that irresistible urge to uglify and disfigure a model’s face, a celebrity’s grin. Innocuous, feel good, tropes are desecrated, producing a warped comic effect you might find in a Monty Python animation or a League of Gentleman episode - a programme I accidentally watched once thinking it was an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, until unsuspecting hikers were eaten by the woman in a cardigan at the local shop. Cross describes himself as a ‘paranormal archaeologist’, whose specialist era is one of bouffants, suburban tedium and Arran jumpers occupying a parallel universe of bloody carnage.
But when we move beyond Cross’s archaeological discoveries of a zombiefied, saccharin past, we entertain a sense that it is rather our own dark thoughts and fantasies in the here and now that are being manifested. At this point Cross’s work enters a darker realm. Are we victim or perpetrator? The nails torn down the face of a sibling, the pleasure of slitting a throat turned toward us, for a moment are we so sure we haven’t done it, can a memory of a fleeting fantasy become as real as something lived? Cross’s twisted imagination delights in introducing that haunting fear that horror is just waiting for us all around the corner or when we next catch our reflection admiring that new cardigan in the mirror.
Martyn Cross Soldier of Misfortune, 2007
Martyn Cross See You in Hell, 2008
Cross will be having a solo exhibition in May - June 2010 called 'Pride and Perseverance' at The Last Gallery, Llangadog.
Alison Sharkey is an artist based in Cornwall. In 2009 she helped found and now co directs an artist project space called Back Lane West.
Martyn Cross on Axis
Alison Sharkey on Axis