Nerine Martini was a visual artist and arts educator working in the fields of sculpture, installation, drawing and public art.
Martini had a diverse art practice which focused mainly on sculpture, however it was not restricted to a particular medium; rather it is the idea and the context that shape the creative response. This required a continual shift from a studio/exhibition practice to working within specific communities and creating works in the public domain.
After studying fine arts in Perth and Canberra, she obtained a Master of Art degree by coursework followed by a Master of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, UNSW.
Martini was working on her PhD "State of in-betweenness: the potential for socially engaged art to empower immigrant communities" before declining health caused her to discontinue her studies.
Martini’s work has been selected as a finalist for many major outdoor public sculpture events and she was awarded work in the public domain in Katoomba, Blacktown, Wollongong, Canberra and Hue, Vietnam. Her work was also included in the Blake Prize in 2005 and 2012.
A significant achievement in Martini’s career was the sculpture Life Boat/Thuyen Cuu Roi. This work about ocean journeys of courage and compassion was made during a 2006 residency in Vietnam. Life Boat/Thuyen Cuu Roi was exhibited at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi and the Hue Fesival before being shipped to Sydney where it was shown at Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi in 2007. Awarded the People’s Choice Award and the 2008 Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award in Victoria, it was purchased by artsACT for permanent display in the Civic Library in Canberra.
It is a poetic sensitivity, a concern for humanity and the social and natural environments which we all share that form thematic links within her art practice. Within Martini’s art practice she had a passion for working cross-culturally, responding to the concerns of people who have faced adverse situations; such as the trauma of war and displacement.
Of particular interest are the stories of people who have sought refuge in Australia; often facing traumatic journeys to get to a country that is not always welcoming. Martini’s approach was based on the premise that a visual artwork can capture the imagination and speak to a wide audience, beyond the need for the spoken and written word.
The various art forms and materials embraced included: works on paper, ceramics, carved wood, etched stone pavement, laser-cut steel and cast bronze. Often this required a collaborative approach working with: architects, planners and engineers, and skilled fabricators and crafts people. Martini embraced this collaborative approach and the challenge of interaction between diverse people, and the outcomes with the chosen
materials and forms.