The American abstract painter Eddie Martinez speaks to Paul Carter Robinson ahead of his London Exhibition Cowboy Town which opens today at Timothy Taylor London.
“The place I’ll never have to watch my speed is in the studio” – Eddie Martinez
PCR Are you originally from Connecticut?
EM It’s a misconception, My Dad was in the Navy. He was stationed there and I was born there and then he got out and I moved to Texas, Florida and then my Mom moved to San Francisco then my Dad moved to Massachusetts, so I was there for a few years. Then went to stay with my Dad in San Diego and went to High School there.
PCR Art College?
EM One Year then I dropped out
EM Art Institute of Boston (now closed)
PCR What are your feelings on Art School?
EM I don’t have any, It just wasn’t for me but I’m not adamantly against them or anything. If that’s what people want to do or they find it useful that’s great. I think it can inhibit you, especially at grad school level. Everything you do they say looks like someone else’s work, but that’s what you have to work through and that’s why you’re there, to be influenced by other people’s work, to discover yourself and what you want to make. So many people I talk to that went to art school don’t make art anymore.
PCR How would you describe your practice?
EM I draw a lot
PCR Do you derive your paintings from drawings
EM Yeah for sure they’re not always studies for paintings or preparatory drawings. Drawing for me is often biographical. My pockets are filled with drawings now.
PCR Your latest exhibition Cowboy Town at Timothy Taylor London is all paintings?
EM Yes, my last show here had drawings but I just wanted to show paintings this time.
PCR Do you use your art to work through personal things?
EM Yeah sure, It’s not like I’m faced with one problem and I have to go to the studio and work through it. But it’s the most natural default mechanism. It’s calmed me down a lot these days, but I used to be extremely violent with my work. Although I still get a lot out of frantic movement.
PCR Is it working through anger.
EM It was, but I’m not very angry anymore. It took about 30 years to get over. It’s not like I can say I painted this yellow because I was feeling a certain way, It’s not specific like that, if there is a colour that I want to go over, I just go over, it evolves.
PCR How much of a role has graffiti played as an influence in your work?
EM It’s there, but I think more street signs is what I look at. I like depressed cities cause their signs still exist, all that original shit like Seven-Up signs from the 70s, I love all that, I love Chicago, New York and want to visit Detroit. New York, it’s sill there but you can’t see it. It’s covered up. Tags I love to see tags, I don’t really care for stencils and that sort of stuff.I like all the shit on the street like how trash can look at a distance, like a sculpture. Of course, it’s a piece of trash why would it be a bronze sculpture on the street. I like the colours of the street.
PCR How about London?
I love how in London you see Islamic writing tags
PCR This brings us to your Mandala paintings, quite a departure for you. Are you influenced by Buddhism? Can you talk a bit about these works?
EM I’m not really a Buddhist but Eastern religion has always interested me more that Western religion. My assistant found these old drawings of mine from 2007 and they were Mandalas and I just wanted to paint them. I like them for their ability to contain. They are containers for marks and shapes and colours. The only time I’m really envious of minimalism is how they are allowed to paint a big block of colour. For me It’s how you choose to make that script that’s the fun. I get to block out the colour in the background and sometimes I don’t feel the need to have anything else in the background. The background becomes a solid block, with densities.
PCR Your work is moving fast from the representational work that Saatchi bought a few years back when your career started to take off, where do you see your direction in the future?
The work I’m doing now is a reflection of how my life is. Fast Eddie, I used to race BMX bikes with that written on my back. Although I’ve been trying to slow down for the last several years. but the place I’ll never have to watch my speed is in the studio. It’s not practical to speed through other elements of life it could cause problems.
PCR Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I don’t see things slowing down but the most important thing for me is to keep myself interested. I’m not going to run out of material or techniques I want to continue to make the paintings that I want to make. I want to make paintings out of silicone, explore new materials. My wife and I just took a vacation, our first. She’s an artist as well (Sam Moyer) very different stuff from mine. My next five years…. I’m going to wake up and do the things I want to do. I’d also like a child. I need someone outside of me to take care of.
Photos by Paul Carter Robinson © Artlyst 2017