David Martin - The Cusp of Change: A Journey Through the Middle East

David Martin - The Cusp of Change: A Journey Through the Middle East


RSA Gallery 9


This exhibition is by David Martin, who won the 2006 RSA Alastair Salvesen Art Scholarship. David (age 30) is from, and based in, Edinburgh and graduated with an MA Fine Art from the University of Edinburgh in 2000. He was also the recipient of the RSA John Kinross Student Scholarship to Florence in 2001.


David proposed to take an epic journey through the Middle East and into Europe. ‘This journey represents the dissemination of ancient alchemical knowledge from Egypt, through the Middle East and into Europe, in order to explore the transforming effects of modern development brought about by technologies such as nuclear development and global communications. Without staying in one place for any length of time, this huge journey should provide a range of encounters with cultures undergoing transformation, nations being born and people adapting to new ways of life amid their ancient heritage. It is a journey of transformation.’ David Martin


Artist Statement

In May 2006 I flew to Cairo, Egypt. I spent the next 5 months travelling through the Middle East, and on into Eastern Europe. With just a bag packed full of sketchbooks, cameras, inkpots and oil pastels I hopped on buses, boats and ramshackle taxis exploring and discovering for myself this amazing part of the world. My journey took in cities of tombs, desert monasteries, and 1000-year-old mosques as well as pulsing, vibrant contemporary cities. As I wandered some of the oldest streets in the world, I invariably stumbled across signs of significant change. Whether it was revealed through the people, their fashion, resplendent from Egypt to Turkey to Serbia, or told by posters plastered on the walls of cities throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe, wherever I went there were stories of change, both triumphant, as in Sarajevo, or desperate, as in the destruction of Southern Lebanon just 25 miles away from Damascus.


In all this travel through this turbulent region I was looking to get a flavour of the ordinary, everyday life that rarely gets through the blaring headlines regarding this faultline of contrasting civilisations. I wanted above all to gain a sense of how life across this region was changing. Changing within the context of cultures where the past is almost reverently preserved, or subconsciously dominant in traditions, habits, buildings and streets.


Looking for signs of change allowed me to find a parallel with an ancient precedent; the fabled journeys of the alchemists, who, in order to complete their training and be transformed from an apprentice to an Initiate, were said to go on a Quest to discover for themselves the secret of transformation, and seek the Agent of Change. I decided to see my own journey as a quest, and as I tried to get a sense of the elusive character of change, to allow for my own personal transformation as I encountered so many unexpected wonders.

This exhibition, 5 months on from my return, marks where I have got to, so far, in deciphering this amazing journey. It is very much a work in progress, and the concoction of sketches executed on the road, drawings, notes, works just started- effectively bringing my studio into the gallery- alongside finished oil paintings aims to reflect this. There is no doubt that this life-changing experience has set the course of my artistic journey for many years to come. David Martin 2007


***** ‘The fine art of travel’ Duncan Macmillan, The Scotsman

Visitor comments:

‘Terrific: Its inspiring to see someone who travels with all his senses so alert and responsive’

‘This is a spiritually uplifting experience, as well as being a visual delight’

‘A fantastic display – absolutely captures the character of these places’

‘Fantastic! … its incredibly valuable to get such a beautiful engle on the Middle East in this time of turmoil, noble work indeed!’