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Martyn Thompson's Distinctive Design Comes To The NGV

Creative People

Martyn Thompson is a unique creative polymath working across photography, textile and wallpaper design, editioned art and publishing.

Though he runs his eponymous studio out of his adopted home of New York City, Martyn is currently back in Australia preparing for the prestigious Rigg Design Prize 2018 exhibition.

Along with nine co-exhibiting designers, Martyn in the running For Australia’s highest contemporary design accolade; so what’s he got in mind?

19th September, 2018

Inside the New York City home of Martyn Thompson. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Martyn works across photography, textile and wallpaper design, editioned art and publishing. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Martyn is in contention for NGV’s Rigg Design Prize 2018. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Martyn Thompson Studio’s textiles from the ‘Cézanne’s Shadow’ and ‘The Accidental Expressionist’ ranges. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

‘Accidental Expressionist’ teaware in collaboration with 1882 Ltd. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

‘Midnight Moondust’ wallpaper from the collaboration with Fabscarte. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Martyn’s designs in throughout his studio/loft. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Martyn Thompson Studio’s jacquard textile: ‘Drop Cloth Thistle’. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Martyn’s collaboration with Perrenials recently won the Architizer A+ jury prize for best design! Pictured: ‘Splash Mustard’. Photo – Martyn Thompson.

Elle Murrell
Wednesday 19th September 2018

‘I think the exhibition will be a wonderful thing to see as its 10 different points view each striving to create an idea of beauty.’ – Martyn Thompson

When I got in touch with Martyn Thompson last week he was on the road from Sydney to Melbourne with ‘a van full of Rigg exhibition!’

This Rigg Design Prize 2018 exhibition will open on October 12th at Melbourne’s NGV Australia, featuring exhibits from Martyn and nine other shortlisted Australian design practices. Each will produce an interior which demonstrates ‘how designers create interiors as forms of communication embedded with values, ideas and stories that directly engage with the cultural, historical, material and technological aspects of society’. One prize winner, selected by an international judge, will be announced to coincide with the exhibition opening.

A former Sydney native, Martyn has found himself in high-calibre company, alongside Melbourne-based Flack Studio, David Hicks, Danielle Brustman and Hecker Guthrie, along with Sydney-based firms Amber Road, Arent & Pyke, Scott Weston Architecture Design, The Society Inc by Sibella Court, and Richards Stanisich.

Knowing Martyn and his extraordinary aesthetic, we are dying to see what magic he conjures out of that van! As we wait with baited breath, he kindly hints at what we can look forward to…

We last featured you on TDF’s film series The Outlanders in 2015; what have you been focusing on since then?

A lot has happened-especially with my design work. I’ve continued exploring pattern and fabrication using my photography as the basis, and moved into creating some three-dimensional pieces. There have been three Martyn Thompson Studio jacquard textile collections — The Accidental Expressionist (2015), Rockpool (2016) and Watercolor (2018).

There have also been some great collaborations with brilliant artisans and producers including English ceramics company 1882 Ltd and the Milanese craftsmen Fabscarte. In May this year, we launched a series of rugs with the Dallas based company, Perennials. These have thrillingly just won the Architizer A+ jury prize for best design!

For the Rigg Design Prize in 2018, you’ve been invited to design a purpose-built interior that responds to the theme of ‘Domestic Living’.
 What does this theme mean to you and what can we expect from your part of the exhibition?

I’ve taken a personal approach and looked at what I surround myself with and how I live my domestic life – what is important to me. My work for the Rigg is very much a continuation of the aesthetic I’ve been building with Martyn Thompson Studio over the past five years through the layering of textiles and the mixing of pattern… the use of asymmetric shapes and the idiosyncratic juggling of ‘high’ and ‘low’ design.

I think the exhibition will be a wonderful thing to see as its 10 different points view each striving to create an idea of beauty.

Relocating from Sydney followed by time in Paris and London, you’ve now been living and working in NYC for almost two decades. What are you looking forward to about coming back to Australia to work with Melbourne’s NGV?

In NYC, it’s been a constant exploration. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career as a photographer and got to meet and work with many very talented individuals and produce alluring imagery for major brands. I’ve also been able to create pop-up installations and produce community art projects and, more recently, explore this whole new tangent of design.

It’s such an honour to be invited by the NGV to a part of this event. I don’t know contemporary Melbourne too well, but I know it has a feeling of openness that I really love – room to breathe. I always stay in Fitzroy, an area which seems to have the best of what’s on offer in the contemporary urban landscape – a quirky sense of individuality and a keen eye for architectural preservation which I think is so important!

What will you be dedicating your time to post-Rigg?

Well… for starters, I’m going to be spending a lot more time in Australia which I’m super excited about…

Rigg Design Prize 2018
October 12th to February 29th, 2019
Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Level 3, Contemporary Art & Design
Federation Square, Victoria
Free entry

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net