Javier Martin (b.1985) is a conceptual, young artist whose creative practice involves different materials and techniques. Although painting remains his main practice, the use of neon lights has been dynamically incorporated into his body of work. Inserting the qualities and attributes of Pop Art through neon, Martin encourages a cultural conversation about human language and emotions. Questioning the contemporary culture and its values, the artist challenges the conventional semiotics through painting contrasts and visual contradictions, which are mainly inspired by the idea of blindness.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Inspired by commercial advertisements or widely known fashion editorials, the artist interprets some iconic depictions on his canvases while also illuminating them with neon light signs. Concentrating on vague neon marking configurations and avoiding meaningful texts or confessional words, Martin further examines the concept of unseeing with the fascinating light of his neon light tubes. A remarkable contradiction is depicted on his canvases where blindness is underlined by bright neon colours.
Creating a visual barrier for the viewers, the artist aims to hide the eyes’ shape from his paintings. The direct visual hit of neon lights seems to aesthetically deconstruct the unity of Martin’s paintings, thereby enhancing his efforts to underline the idea of blindness. Undeniably, eyes are considered a remarkable spot to look at when trying to engage with a portrait or an artwork in general. Hiding the portrait’s eyes, makes the emotional interpretation obvious, while the glowing neon abstract signs dominate on canvas. Additionally, their colours, sizes or shapes vary, depending on the narrative of his visualized themes. Particularly, the array of neon lights degrades the objectively attractive and beautiful women depicted in those big stylised advertisements on the streets —questioning, at the same time, the apparent perception of beauty. The artist alternatively encourages the viewer to examine semiotics of beauty or even to redefine what real beauty means to them.
Born in Marbella, Spain, in 1985, Javien Martin lives and works between the United States and Europe. His work has been exhibited in many art galleries and museums around the world, including the Seoul Museum in Seoul, South Korea, the Valli Art Gallery in Miami, USA, and the David Zwirner Gallery in New York, USΑ.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
The part where I dedicate the most is the conceptual part, the ideas and messages I want to transmit with my work and that’s the most important part me and after this I look for the materials that better express this concept or idea which is why in my work I experiment with various materials because each material adapts to the different sensations I want the viewers to fell.
This way depending the type of material the process can be more complex, for example when I work with neon or mirrors the production takes more time compared to the collage which I like to do in a more organic way but at the end I don’t have only one process of work it depends on the idea and the project.
How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Reflection of Society.
Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
It’s complicated for me to pick one but I’ve always been very inspired by the moment of the Arte Povera and an artist from this movement that really inspires me for his conceptual art and the way that he creates with the materials is Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Creating a new painting can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
Since my childhood I’ve managed solitude in a different way, I started painting since I was 8 years old and that moment of just me and the painting started being a part of my life when you use that solitude to create or do the things you like the most, it ends up being a different kind of solitude than the one the rest of the world knows because you have the control of that situation and you adapt your social life around it.
How do you know when a painting is finished?
It’s something I feel when I’m in front of the piece. In my case I like to work with the minimalism using the least amount of elements to express everything I want to say, this way when I feel that I have included all the elements that express my message and when I feel that the piece expresses what I wanted to transmit I feel that the piece is finished.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
My studio it’s like my temple, it’s the place where ideas are born and are turned into reality. One of the most important parts is the natural light which is why at the studio I have now there are really tall windows because I like to see the colors in the most natural way. The light is something that really influences my work and I have really noticed this in the different studios I’ve had.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
The last exhibition I saw was Jonas Wood at Gagosian in NY.
What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
The most important for me is that people take something, anything really. I want to make them think, if I made them think that’s enough for me.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I’m a night owl.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Which are your plans for the near future?
I am working on my first solo show in Tokyo with the gallery Masahiro Maki in October and my current solo show at the Seoul Museum would be moving to the Andong Seoul Art Center.
©All pictures are courtesy of the artist