Martin Thompson: Positive/Negative

19 December 2013 - 18 January 2014
Press release

Ricco/Maresca is pleased to present Martin Thompson: Positive/Negative.

Thompson was born in 1956 in Wellington, New Zealand, straddling the poverty line and unable to manage employment, he survived through support from a government health benefit and his own salvaging of demolition wood. It was around this time that Thompson began to suffer from a mental condition that made subtle codes of social behavior both difficult and stressful. His drawings—which he always carries with him in a large bundle—represent a dazzling array of complex graphic systems that he has conceived in an effort to create order and pattern.


Thompson’s drawings are made from A3 or A4 graph paper and fine-point archival marking pens. His process consists of meticulously applying color in sequenced rows of tiny squares determined by basic mathematical equations. The layers combine to form designs resembling intricate quilts, radiating mandalas, or patterns of pixilated TV static. There are no tests or trial runs in Thompson’s creative process; all of the calculations in his work are intuitive, appearing on the paper with miraculous mechanical certainty. An essential part of Thompson’s process is constructing his drawings in pairs. This particular method manifests in positive and negative spatial patterning that marries technical precision with mathematical accuracy. An interesting aspect of the artist’s technique is his use of a scalpel and clear tape to cut and insert segments from one drawn sequence into another in order to compound the layering into a consistent piece. The precision employed in Thompson’s work is notable considering he often works on his lap or at a local coffee shop or bus shelter.


In 2005 Thompson’s work was included in the landmark exhibition “Obsessive Drawings” at the American Folk Art Museum. This is the artist’s first one-person show in the United States, bringing together a selection of drawings that are as striking for their visual immediacy as they are for the meticulous workmanship involved in their making.

Installation Views