Martin Naylor (1944 - 2016) was born in Morley, Leeds. Naylor studied at Leeds Art College
(1965–66) before working for a year as an Art Advisor to the Psychology Department at
the University of Leeds.

As an artist, he gained international recognition during the “Quiet Revolution” in the late
1970’s and 1980’s. His work is distinguished by his bold use of various media to assert his
quite particular point of view. Confrontational, defiant and assertive, but nonetheless rich
in poetic resonance, Naylor’s work allows meaning to emerge from the gaps between
words, objects, and paintings.

His mixed-media assemblages, combining figuration and abstraction, painting,
photography, and sculpture, are vivid and pronounced, marking an era of civic and global
unrest in which Naylor, an outspoken commentator, set against the arguably idealistic
nature of the sixties.

His first solo exhibition was held at the Lane Gallery, Bradford in 1966. In 1967–70 he studied
at the RCA, after which he taught at various art schools in London at The Royal Art College
to lecture and head The Sculpture Department along with Lancaster, Nice and Bourges. In
1977 he represented Britain at the Sâo Paulo Biennial and became Head of the Sculpture
Department at Hornsey College of Art and Tutor at the RCA.

In his series Between Discipline and Desire (1977-1986) Naylor’s dynamic thought process
is revealed. Stuart Morgan for Artforum notes ‘the stiffness of the drawing; the clumsy
translatorese of the sentences, with their jerky, unliterary quality at odds with their poetic
intent; and the insistent disjunction between parts of works and the genres of the parts
permit the viewer only hints of strain and mental turmoil.’ It becomes clear that Naylor is
psychoanalysing himself. Between discipline and desire lies the territory he must
encompass. Morgan continues ‘Is that a drawing of a man crying and a woman
comforting him? Or is he seizing a woman struggling to escape? Could it be a couple in
love? Passion defies visual translation; it is the dissipation of art, a state of frenzy directed
at a single object. Either the couple’s faces are hidden or they are consuming each other.
Desire means loss of identity.’ In the theatre of shadows and absences, hollowness and
solidity that defines Naylor’s work, one continues to ponder Naylor’s work for want of
uncovering more of these questions.

Naylor spent three years teaching in Paris, followed by a residency in the Dominican
Republic in 1985. A major solo exhibition toured to the Serpentine Gallery in London, Leeds
City Art Gallery and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool from 1986–87 in which Alister Warman,
who gave Naylor the Serpentine retrospective described Naylor as a regency character in
the romantic Byronic mould, pugilistic and poetic. Naylor carried this integrity in his image
throughout his life.

In 1989 Naylor had a major show in Buenos Aires and was presented with the Freedom of
the City of La Plata.

Throughout his life, Naylor’s one-man exhibitions have toured widely throughout Europe,
the USA, and across Central and South America. His work now appears in the collections of
The Tate London, The Henry Moore Foundation, The Leeds Museum, The British Arts Council
and The Royal Academy of British Sculpture. His numerous awards include The Arts
Council Award in 1971 and 1979, the Gulbenkian Foundation Visual Arts Award in 1975, a
prize at the 1978 John Moores Liverpool Exhibition, and a Henry Moore Foundation Award in
1985 London.


Exhibition History:
Solo Shows:
He has had solo exhibitions at the Lane Gallery, Bradford (1966), Arnolfini, Bristol (1973),
Rowan Gallery, London from 1974, Leeds City Art Gallery (1975), an Arts Council tour (1986),
and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut (1992). Brazil, Sao Paulo, Museu
De Arte De Sao Paulo (1991) Brazil, Rio De Janeiro, Museu De Arte Contemporânea de
Niterói (MAC) (1990) Uruguay, Montevideo, Museo Nacional De Artes Plasticas (1989)
Argentina, Buenos Aires, Centro Cultural Ciudad De Buenos Aires.
Group Shows:
Carl Plackman and His Circle, Pangolin London (2019).

Further reading:
- Sandy Nairne and Nicholas Serota (eds.), British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century,
exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1981, pp.224-5, 258
- Martin Naylor: Between Discipline and Desire, Selected works 1977-86, exhibition
catalogue, Arts Council, London 1986