Interview: Patrick Martinez
“My family were blue collar working people. I didn’t know anyone in galleries or whatever. I use that difference as ammo: to keep working and pushing and keep it honest.”
- Patrick Martinez
When local shoppers of the Los Angeles-area supermarket, El Tapatio Markets, took to the their ritual visit in October last year, they could have been excused for failing to notice, well, a little subtle redecoration.
Forget a new chocolate display, this was a full-scale, contemporary fine art installation: from the neon works casting subversive comments on life as we have become accustomed to living it, to the mixed media works camouflaged by our own indifference (think a plaster and paint Tupac ‘cake’ slipped in the dessert cool freeze).
The artist was Patrick Martinez, the exhibition was “Break Bread” and the sentiment is something Makers sits with him to discuss off the back of his compelling Carbon forum as he prepares to return home following a brief visit to Melbourne.
In a new art landscape where widespread interest in graffiti is being used by street artists as a launch pad in to an artistic career, Martinez presented as something different: a young artist of incredible focus for whom graffiti simply served as a small step on the climb up the fine art ladder.
Patrick: “The graffiti stuff, it’s place in my art was kind of like putting together a piece with colour and composition and subject: I was doing my drawing, then it was marker drawing and then it was a spray can that I picked up and then I was 22-years-old and always doing canvas work. It’s part of the journey.”
The “journey” is something Patrick has been on since sketching his way through a childhood filled with likeminded artistic family members who, despite their gifts, never succeeded in converting their creative passions (photography for his father, painting and sculpting for his grandfather and uncle) in to viable careers.
But perhaps it was his mother that most influenced him, a woman with a passion for objects that got him thinking about the way we use decoration to construct the set that works as the backdrop to the performance of our lives.
Patrick: “She would buy things that she thought would enhance our house, but it was not quite right – china that was not great or mirrors with frosted bouquets of flowers that were meant to imitate a Rococco frame. She was just trying to work with what she had and that was interesting to me: people really try to dress up their situation and that stuff is inspiring to me if anything.”
Perhaps it’s this genuine curiosity and lack of judgement that (for the most part) saves Patrick’s works from falling victim to cynicism. In its place there is a spirit of the quizzical observer who is keen to present us all with a different perspective on life’s more mundane freeze frames.
Patrick refers to it as keeping his gaze on “the phenomenology of his surroundings”. And it is this idea behind the art – as opposed to the catchy neon light box works that have garnered him such attention – that he prefers to think of as defining his artistic vocabulary.
Patrick: “I understand that right now, with technology, the neons are easy to digest. The internet is visual. It’s a perfect square to fit instagram which, as a medium, just kills for that stuff. It’s seductive. Having said that what I find interesting is the way that social media and the internet just gets it and multiplies it. But it’s not really my signature.”
So while we’re all busy regraming his incisive commentary – Pawn Your Dream For A 9-5 – Patrick is birthing his next powerful expression.
Patrick: “I love to be in my studio and just have my ideas and some of them are set and some of them come at me and I am taken aback – I will have to work on that piece. Right now I’m working on an eight-foot by sixteen-foot piece and it’s huge but I had to stop because I was slammed by inspiration for another piece, and then I’m also working an a sculpture right now. It’s just about continuing to create and find that relationship in what it is I’m creating.