Rhett Martyn Drawing Horses
Rhett Martyn's 'Drawing Horses' exhibition represents socio-political history through the lens of the horse

Rhett Martyn’s recent Drawing Horses exhibition at Johannesburg’s Hazard Gallery was a bold and powerful experience that used horses to represent our socio-political past and our present day discourse in  South Africa. DECO went along to experience Martyn’s work.

A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.

~ Pam Brown

On entering the exhibition, visitors were met with hundreds of small, unique drawings of horses, each beautiful in their own right. With various levels of abstraction of the horse, these drawings allowed new symbolism and representation to emerge.

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Rhett Martyn has created new possibilities for the representation of the horse in art.

Behind them was the most glorious representation of a horse you’ve ever seen. As seen above, drawn over three large panels, cleverly inverted and obscured with thinners. You could almost feel the life-sized creature moving; its energy, its vitality; almost hearing the movement and intensity of it. The very definition of powerful art.

It was a refreshing and inspiring exhibition, and listening to Martyn’s explanation, reasoning and meaning of this series in his walk-about was inspiring and urged me to question anything that is labelled an absolute.

Looking closely at horses in previous series and exhibitions, Martyn depicted dead horses as the representation and symbol of colonial power, in the wake of the changing political regime in South Africa. Twenty years later he has returned to the horse image, but this time choosing to look at race horses represented as moving, energised and vital in contrast to earlier depictions of the dead horse.

Martyn explained: “Having been replaced by machines, nowadays horses have been relieved of their servitude to humanity as the tools by which nations build, conquer and move empires. However, never has the horse come to represent wealth, power and status more than it does today.”
From the ownership of horses, to the gambling culture concerned, horse racing presents similar dimensions to political systems presiding in the world today. Through sport, the horse continues to serve humanity with unwavering dedication.

A race horse will run until its heart explodes, its body will be commoditized, prized and exchanged; it will be trained, beaten, and pushed to staggering levels of exertion.

These themes discussed by Martyn are present in the exhibition, but by no means limiting to the viewer. The drawings are beautifully distressed, and allow the viewer to drift through various questions, conclusions and personal discovery.

While decommissioned from its practical role in society, the horse has become a fetish symbol of power in control through its role in sport today.

“Through my series of horse drawings, I have tried to downplay typical connotations connected to the horse, and focus on the horse as an armature onto which new symbolic possibilities emerge. In short, the horse provides a loaded but interesting starting point for emergence of other possibilities.” explains Martyn.

With a Masters in Fine Art, Rhett Martyn has exhibited across the globe and continues to wow his audiences around the world. DECO can’t wait to see what’s next.

Want to see more?

For more information, visit hzrd.co.za. where images from the Drawing Horses exhibition can be purchased. Keep an ear out for information on the Turbine Art Festival later this year to see more of Martyn’s work live.