Offsite Projects Archive

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  • Simon Martin
    'Hammer House'
  • 12 April to 12 July 2014
  • Railway Bridge, High Street

Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present Hammer House, an offsite commission by the British artist Simon Martin. This is the fourth artist commission in a series of gallery projects made specifically for the Railway Bridge spanning Southend’s High Street.

For this commission, Martin presents two fifteen metre printed artworks installed on both sides of the bridge. The images display vivid photographic representations of a small hammer designed in 1985, by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata [1934-1991].

The head of the hammer is cast in the shape of an archetypal domestic house. Echoing the formal composition of the original tool, the shape and material renders it inadequate for use as a practical

implement. Kuramata was associated with the Memphis design movement, a group of designers and architects founded in Milan in the 1980s. The group designed postmodern objects and furniture, which embraced the material excesses of the period and rejected the obsession with functionality popular with earlier Modernists.

Martin’s work is fascinated with the conversation around an object’s meaning. The contextual framework with which he chooses to display them, investigates and plays with their perceived cultural significance.

In Hammer House, the object is documented in a cool, forensic way. The camera studies each surface in macro detail, and Martin uses the structure of the bridge to present the object from two distinct angles. The

south-facing artwork displays a face-on view of the hammer; this two-dimensional angle presents the object in a style reminiscent of that used to document culturally significant artefacts. In contrast, the north-facing artwork employs a three-quarter angle; in a similar way to contemporary adverts for high-end consumer products; this view advocates the hammer’s role as an ‘active’ usable thing.

This object was chosen because its ornamental nature raises questions around the designer’s intentions for it. Martin is further interested in how the distance between the object and a hammer’s traditional purpose, allows associative relationships to develop. As a tool traditionally linked with the act of construction and deconstruction, it has particular resonance to the current

regeneration active in the Thames Gateway and, more specifically, the role of art within this process. In addition, historically, the hammer has been adopted as an emblem of revolutionary uprising and social change.


An accompanying text by curator and writer Gina Buenfeld, further explores the conversation around an object, by placing it at the centre of a fictional crime scene. A free copy of this is available from Focal Point Gallery.

Simon Martin's Railway Bridge Commission Hammer House will be launched with a opening event in the gallery on Saturday 12 April, 6pm to 8pm.

About the artist:

Simon Martin (b.1965) lives and works in London. His work has been exhibited at institutions including Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland (2013); Camden Arts Centre, London (2012); ICA,
London (2012); Hayward Gallery, London (2011); Kunstveriem Munich, Munich (2012); Kunstverein Amsterdam (2010); Chisenhale Gallery, London (2008); Tate Britain, London (2008).