The artist never met John Martyn, the singer-songwriter who lived from 1948 until 2009. Photographic and film archive from his life as a performing artist, that is from the age of 18 until he died, was used to generate over 200 drawings. The contrast between the “beautiful curly-haired boy” (Eddi Reader's description of John Martyn's youthful self) and the tortured, obese amputee of his last years was only the most obvious (and shocking) of many contrasts.
Martyn seems to have changed many times, or to have had the kind of complex persona which could flip from one 'John' to another, then on to a third one and so on – the photographs provided Pulsford with extraordinary visual evidence of this complexity across the span of a life of many transformations. The project to master John's likenesses was a fascinating and demanding one, requiring psychological insight as well as adaptation of process.
Pulsford is indebted to Eddi Reader and to John's close friends Danny Thompson and Jim McKnight for their testaments of John's essential humanity; indebted also to the fierce vitality of John's music. Art persists though life is short.
Paintings will follow the current series of drawings. Other Linear Heads will be made, other (living) models used.