Gritty, raw, and unequivocally dynamic, Martinez’s radical approach to painting infuses expressionism’s brute aggression and pop’s frivolous allure with brazen street-savvy graffiti-esque attitude. His high-impact canvases, evolved from his intensive engagement with drawing, accumulate as explosive fields of animated mark-making restrained only by the measure of his chosen motifs: the time honoured genres of portraiture and still life operating as classical platforms for Martinez’s painterly inventiveness.
Beginning with three small portraits from his Untitled Series, Martinez conceives his surfaces as a purely physical domain: as statuesque heads, comically puerile and primitive, appear as if chiselled from paint, their illusive solidity wrought from bold spontaneous gestures sliced through thickly textured grounds. This teasing paint v. sculpture discombobulation is compounded in Martinez’s floral arrangements which flourish with heavy-handed absurdity. In Blue Flowers an impossible bouquet of crude concrete blooms insistently predicate their ‘realness’ – the sheer bulk of their form and intensity of hue barely contained by the stylised vase.
This exaggerated tension between flat canvas, paint’s illusory quality and its goopy tactile materiality, in Martinez’s large scale works, is complicated to the extreme. His improvised compositions are rendered with clumsy operatic choreography, equally dramatic and static. Space isn’t impasto-built but conceptually mapped in planes of patchy offensive tones, where action is humorously played out in hieroglyph style, pitting coarse outlined graphics against urban jungle melange. The motifs – recurrent cartoonish characters, cassette tapes, cutlery, a basket ball, food stuffs – are life-drawn from Martinez’s daily banalities. Dripping, tumulous, or aerosol sprayed, they’re aggrandised, immortalised, made formally integral to Martinez’s refreshingly innovative reinterpretation of what painting should be: masterfully executed, shrewdly funny, daringly confident and delivered with uncompromising taste.
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