Adrienne Martyn

I was born in Wellington 1950 and brought up in Invercargill where at the age of eighteen I moved to Dunedin to learn photographic and darkroom skills from a commercial photographer. In 1970 I returned to Invercargill where I was a photographer's assistant for Campbell Studios. At that time I bought my first serious camera - a Speed Graphic 4x5 from The Southland Times. A year later I worked as a freelance darkroom technician for Christchurch fashion photographer Euan Sarginson who encouraged me to use his 35mm Pentax as the Speed Graphic was becoming too cumbersome to use. With a new portfolio of images taken with my own Pentax I briefly worked as a camera assistant and darkroom technician for Cyril Taft's Illustrative Photography in Auckland. I then moved to Sydney in 1972 where I worked as a darkroom technician and studio photographer at the Sydney Morning Herald. From 1972 - 1974 I was involved with the Sydney Women’s Film Group, contributed photographs to the movie 'Home', feminist newspapers, magazines and books including feminist poet Kate Jennings seminal work ‘Mother I’m Rooted – an Anthology of Australian Women Poets’. In 1974 photographed recipients of Council grants for the Australia Council. I also received a film grant from the Film Fund Board, Australia Council to make my own movie 'The Object'.
I returned to Dunedin in 1975 later attending Otago Polytechnic School of Art in 1977, for a short time, where I was inspired by the paintings of Vermeer and modernist abstract art. I explored abstraction in landscape and architectural subjects in a series of photographs which were exhibited at Bosshard Galleries Dunedin in 1978. After purchasing a medium format camera (Rolled SL66) I returned to Sydney to attend the Australian Centre for Photography workshops in Paddington where I explored portrait photography.
In 1980 I set up a portrait photography studio in Dunedin photographing friends, artists and commissions and I also used the interior of the Hotel Excelsior as a setting for portraits. I produced ‘Surfaces’, a series of abstract photographs exploring the play of light on stucco textures which was shown at Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Peter Webb Galleries, Auckland 1982. Prints from these early portrait and surface studies were collected by Te Papa Museum of New Zealand Auckland Art Gallery Dunedin Public Art Gallery and The Dowse. I moved to Auckland and set up a studio in 1985 where, in 1986, NAG/Te Papa commissioned me to photograph ‘Artist Portraits’ for its collection. A couple of years later the Dunedin Public Art Gallery mounted and toured a survey exhibition of my portrait work covering 1979 - 1987 period. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanied this touring exhibition. During 1988 I continued creating portraits at the now empty Hotel Excelsior focussing on the austere kauri staircase lit by stairwell cupola.
On a visit to Sydney in early 1989, I viewed an exhibition at Art Gallery of New South Wales of Bill Henson's large scale portrait/museum triptychs. I was inspired to revisit the Excelsior images and, encouraged by artist friends, combined them with my images of the empty staircase. This body of work was first presented as ‘Excelsior’ at Marshall Seifert Gallery, Dunedin and 'Absence:Presence' at Jonathan Jensen Gallery, Christchurch in 1989.
For a few hours on a visit to the Louvre I photographed some of the galleries using my hand-held Rollei. Continuing this exploration of Art as Subject I photographed artist's studios at an artist workshop near Oamaru. In 1992 I attended one of these workshops where I explored painting and drawing later setting up a studio at the vacant Excelsior building.
I moved to Melbourne from 1995 where I lived until 1998 returning to New Zealand to live in Napier teaching analogue photographic practice at EIT. My personal photographic practice resumed, after a six year hiatus, photographing palisades, water and grasses at Otatara Pa Historic Reserve, Hawkes Bay. ‘Otatara’ was shown at Hawkes Bay Museum 1999 and in that same year, using digital technology, I created 'River' presented as a large grid comprising sixty-five A3 prints of the Tutaekuri River.' River' was purchased by Hawke's Bay Museum. The following year I was the Artist in Residence at Waikato Museum where I investigated Lake Taupo's volcanic origins – a selection of images from this residency were shown and collected by Waikato Museum.
In 2005 I gained my MFA (First Class Hons.) from Elam School of Art, University of Auckland, where I created a series of digitally manipulated analogue images of the Louvre and Auckland Art Gallery investigating the power of the frame. This project ‘Looking for the Subject’ was exhibited at City Gallery Wellington in 2007.
Since 2017 I have extended this body of work by photographing gallery and museum interiors emptied of their objects. I have focused on the inter-play of light on surfaces to show gallery interiors as art works in themselves. Some of my projects on this theme include Anderson Park Art Gallery, Sarjeant Gallery, Robert McDougall Art Gallery and Southland Museum and Art Gallery.
In 2019 I ventured into different territory photographing cluttered and decayed hotel rooms at Bluff's Club Hotel. Eight large hyper-real prints from this project were exhibited in collaboration with poet Cilla McQueen who stamped and displayed her poetry on large sheets of silk. Our exhibition, titled 'Gossamer', was presented at Miharo Gallery, Invercargill in 2020.
My recent exhibition 'durham street - as she left', shown at Olga Gallery 2022, showed images of the interior of Dunedin artist Marilynn Webb's home as she left her things in random and considered arrangements. This body of work was purchased by The Hocken.
'Total Control' at Envy6011, Wellington is currently showing my 1970's - 1980's portraits of men - opened 2 June and closes 2 July 2022.
Future exhibitions of new work include desolate lighthouse keepers dwellings on Dog Island south of Bluff, emptied rooms at historic Golder Cottage in Upper Hutt, earthquake prone Aigantighe Gallery in Timaru and the emptied interior of Campbell's Studio, Invercargill where I worked at in 1970.
I am the Artist in Residence at Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic from 22 June - 15 September 2022.

Artist in Residence, Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic from 22 June - 15 September 2022.
Artist in Residence, Waikato Museum of Art & History, 2000
Artist in Residence, Visual Art & Design Department, EIT, 1998-99
Inaugural Artist in Residence, Samuel Marsden Collegiate, 1999
Creative Communities grant ‘Golder Cottage’ exhibition Whirinaki Whare Taonga, 2022
QEII Arts Council grant ‘Artist Portraits’ exhibition Brooker Gallery, 1988
Buddle Findlay grant ‘Portrait of Law’ exhibition City Gallery Wellington, 1987
American Express grant ‘Artist Portraits’ project, National Art Gallery, 1986
Film Fund Board grant, Australia Council ‘The Object’ film, 1974

Dunedin Public Art Gallery
The Dowse
Te Papa Museum of New Zealand
Christchurch Art Gallery
Auckland Art Gallery
Hawke’s Bay Museum
Southland Museum & Art Gallery
Sarjeant Gallery
Hocken Library University of Otago
University of Canterbury
Invercargill Public Art Gallery
Eastern Southland Gallery
Waikato Museum

- Adrienne Martyn (accessed June 2022)


Works by this Artist