“Art for me serves as a self exploratory device to make sense of the world around me. ”
- DANIEL MARTIN
Daniel Martin (1982) lives and works in Leiden, the Netherlands. In his current work he searches for the transmutational properties of matter. The portraits and sculptures do not have a definite form and posses different realities on how they can be perceived. In order to come to new forms, Daniel cuts up paintings, finds things on the street and uses creations made by others. The loose elements from these endeavours are used as disjointed brushstrokes that are reassembled in coherent shapes again, creating an object which holds no truth in shape.
We had the opportunity to ask the artist from the Netherlands about his work, inspirations, and process. Check out our interview with Daniel Martin below.
Where are you from and how did you get started in art?
I am from The Netherlands. I started creating at my neighbours place as a kid while watching Bob Ross. I must have a thousand happy tree paintings floating around somewhere. Art? Maybe not, but it did spark my creative engine and I still look back with great joy at that time where I could just create with zero thought and outside interference. I feel like painting birds now.
Whats your earliest memory of art?
It is actually not a memory as I was four years old and I don’t really remember it, but I’d like to tell the story nonetheless. During a visit to a museum in Wroclaw, Poland, there was this painting of a religious scene where someone (must have been Jezus) was crushed under a cross and a man on a horse looking down at him. It was a really dark painting with thunderous clouds in the background. Apparently I was really struck by the piece and my parents had a hard time dragging me away from it. Throughout the whole museum visit I kept running away constantly to see it. Nothing could keep me from it. Thirty years later I went back there to see the painting again. Somehow I knew where I could find it and I recognized it instantly. It was situated in a room on the far end with a huge explosive and colorful painting right next to it, almost deminishing the presence of the one I was so captured by. Till this day I don’t have a clue what my four year old self was thinking.
How would you describe your art?
My recent work can be called a mixture between sculpture and painting. I still take a canvas or panel but I use objects, or elements as I call them to build up layers that stick out creating a three dimensional surface. With these elements I try to break down or build up my subject showing a untruth in perception and matter. By rearranging all these parts I like to play with how we perceive things, and how they can take on different shape while still being true to what we make out of it. It’s a kind of pareidolia effect.
What do you love about using your medium?
Having the elements to work with I can use them as building blocks to find new form. Because I can rearrange them endlessly as I see fit there are many different outcomes to explore which is a very loose and playful way of conducting art. It has become a non linear process which I found difficult to reach in other mediums. When chipping away at a block of marble there is no way of going back, you need to know where you are going. The same applies to the painting process, although it’s a way more forgiving medium as you can just add another layer of paint and change the composition. But still it doesn’t reach the same level of playfulness of instantly changing your entire piece compositionally by moving bits around. It suits my jumpy and energetic character I guess. It’s like going on vacation and having everything pre-arranged. You know what to expect and that’s quite boring in my opinion. I prefer going to a city and mindlessly running through every ally to end up at a local bar which can’t be found in any travel guide.
What subject matters do you touch and why s it important?
I look a lot at nature, old cultures and their symbolism. Their pictorical language has strong ties to nature as they refer directly to it. I derive shape and color from those among other subjects, and create my elements from them. I still often impose them on a portrait or the human form to show that people are built with the same building blocks everything is made out of. That is also why I like to apply force to the elements I use. It exposes the underlying structures or patterns materials consist of and re-shapes them accordingly. If I take a piece of wood and burn it, it reveals these craquele patterns. Patterns that resemble when dried sand or for instance paint cracks up. There are many of these kinds of similarities, so this search became important to me because I want to discover more of the interconnectedness of everything we know and how it relates to each other.
How did you get started as an artist?
When I got out of school I started an 3D graphics company with two friends doing visuals for architects, movies, games and other graphical expressions. During that period that lasted a good ten years I started to paint again in my free time. I even attended two part time academies in art and when in my early thirties I quit the company I came in contact with a gallery that began to sell my work. From that moment on, which is about six years ago I am working full time as an artist.
What advice do you have for those wanting to pursue a creative avenue?
I think when pursuing anything in life the first and foremost advice is that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. Almost nothing works out the first time you try it, and if you do not set up the conditions to accept failing, you are bound to stop trying at a certain point. To give a simple example, when you just start out painting and you use expensive materials it will set the bar of expectations high and you will be afraid mess up, making it more likely that you will. When using cheap materials it will enable you to not care so much and try various approaches and learn from your mistakes. It will be more likely you reach an outcome you are happy with. I believe this approach goes for a lot of things.
Whats your creative process?
I always say creation is association, so my process is quite chaotic. In order to associate freely I need to make a mess and have a lot of things around me that I can combine to find new solutions. At the moment I am trying to structurize my process more by creating libraries of elements according to shape, size, materialization and color etc. I hope this structure will bring a bit more order in my process without having to lose any creative options. By doing so I will have access to any subject that I can build towards with these building blocks consisting of anything you can think of. It’s like creating pieces of a puzzle I can later put together.
What do you want people to think when they look at your work?
I am not so preoccupied what other people see in my work. Art for me serves as a self exploratory device to make sense of the world around me. Next to that even if you try your best to convey something it will be very hard to let other people see what you mean. A person’s perception is based on their geographical, political, religious and cultural background so an object or image might mean something totally else to you then to another person. If I have to answer your question, I would say I want people to see there is no truth to how my art, or what is depicted, can be perceived.
If you could collaborate with any artist dead or alive who would it be?
I am really amazed by artists that combine different disciplines of creation. So much in art has already been done and sometimes I get the idea contemporary art is a bit stuck within it’s own border. Artists that can let go of the notion of what art should be, reach new ground by fading the border of creation using design, science, architecture, fashion, music etc as their playground. I particularly like artists that get inspired by nature and approach it in a scientific way and getting to results somewhere between art, design and architecture. I would be more than happy to one be able to mix my work with the likes of Daniel Widrig or Neri Oxman.
What do you want to accomplish with your art?
To find answers that may, or may not be there.
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