Ron Martin was born in London, Ontario, where he studied commercial art at H.B. Beal Secondary High School and was one of the original members of the Forest City Gallery in 1973. At that time, artists were searching for new formal directions, alternative materials, and a fresh visual vocabulary with which to relate to one’s place in the quicker pace of modern living. They sought a place for the individual (both artist and viewer) to connect with art on a more spiritual level again, an ability that was thoroughly tested through mid-twentieth century art movements.
Martin is one of a small group of painters in Canada that considers the act of creating a work a type of performance which served to remind the viewer that their experience of a material object, such as a painting, was rooted in an experience of themselves. As Roald Nasgaard points out in his book Abstract Painting in Canada, Martin played a significant role in the evolution of abstract painting in Canada by “shifting attention away from formalist-derived aesthetic pleasures and onto other qualities of the viewer’s experience.”
Through Martin’s process-based, serial approach to abstract painting, he opened critical new dimensions in understanding and appreciating the capacity of abstract painting in Canada and greatly contributed to a re-emergence of abstract painting in Canada.
Ron Martin received the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2012.