Martin Ball

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Born in 1952, Martin Ball is best known for his large scale portraits - often of iconic New Zealand artists. He began his trademark style of hyper-realistic paintings and graphite drawings while attending Elam School of Fine Arts in the 1970s under the tutelage of Garth Tapper, Robert Ellis and Pat Hanly, a period in which, by his own admission, Ball was heavily influenced by Impressionism, Post Impressionism and the drawing style of Picasso.

In the 1980's, Ball veered in a new direction. He began constructing his own images rather than using derivative elements from his influences and to this end, Ball began a series of works based on flora in the Wintergarden at the Auckland Domain. The resulting works, with their jungle-like intensity, paved the way for the botanical still-life studies that followed. In particular, the protea flower became a recurring image depicted in a range of styles - from the traditionalism of the Dutch still-life painters to the effervescent colour of Paul Cezanne.

In 2000, Ball's fascination with portraiture prevailed with an exhibition of five works at Auckland's Gow Langsford Gallery. The works marked an enormous shift in scale with paintings (up to 2 metres square) that engulfed the peripheral vision of the audience.

The subjects - Arnold Wilson, Stanley Palmer, Dick Frizzell, Robert Ellis and Ralph Hotere - were painted direct from posed photographs of the artists in Ball's studio and often displayed subtle pictorial elements that referred to aspects of the source photograph like grain and paper texture. The circumstances of Ball's extreme realism prompted prominent critic TJ McNamara to note, "it is the skill of [Ball's] painting that ensure these works inhabit a different world from that of photographs and add to their remarkable presence."

In 2005, Martin Ball was selected as a finalist in the prestigious Archibald Portrait Exhibition at the New South Wales Gallery, an exhibition that recognises excellence in contemporary portraiture. In 2006, Ball was also judged a finalist in the Wallace Art Awards, consequently winning the Peoples Choice Award. In 2008, Ball was awarded the Packing Room Prize at the Archibald Portrait Exhibition for his 2007 portrait of Neil Finn. In 2010, Ball was again selected as a finalist in the Archibald Portrait Exhibition. Ball is represented in public collections throughout New Zealand including the Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery, Waikato Art Museum and Sarjeant Gallery and is currently Head of Painting at Manukau School of Visual Arts.

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