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Lucked out
An interview with Eddie Martinez
Rajesh Punj

Talking technique with American artist Eddie Martinez is a lesson in letting things happen, as he loosely applies himself to the task of explaining his paintings to an audience of one. Seeing them less as deliberate drawings, and more a fleeting fancy of ice-cream colours on canvas, Martinez employs much of the abstract vigour of fellow Americans Philip Guston and Arshile Gorky, in an attempt to coax the canvas into these concocted scenes of belligerent beauty. And by committing to an unruly order of things, I realise as I labour over the ‘how’ and ‘why?’ of his works, Martinez delights over the ‘why not?’ Whereby the value of the visual disarray of his paintings comes as a consequence of the unedited interplay between colour and form. Guston said of his abstracted work “I don’t know what a painting is: who knows what sets off even the desire to paint? It might be things, thoughts, a memory, sensations, which have nothing to do directly with painting itself. They can come from anything and anywhere.” And as equally for Martinez’ colours, gestures, loosely associated marks -everything is likely included in a visual adventure of all that is and could be.

Of knowing when a work is complete Guston goes on to say, “Usually I am on a work for a long stretch, until a moment arrives when the air of the arbitrary vanishes, and the paint falls into positions that feel destined.” Which for Martinez is entirely about arresting the moment, and of removing any trace of time or narrative from his ubiquitous works; explaining “It has either gone so far that you literally can’t get the image back because there is too much paint, then it is like ‘forget it’; or it’s just about there and it can be excavated and bought back to what I want it to be, and it gets to where I want it to be much sooner. But also something that I have changed in the last few years is that I stopped painting over them again and again
An interview with Eddie Martinez
and again. I used to wipe them out, paint and wipe it out, sand it down and paint over it; and now I am less interested in that kind of history (of a work) – of the history or typography of it. I have become more interested, if anything, in smoother surfaces. There is still a lot of texture, but now I would rather stretch a new canvas.

” Digesting a canvas whole Martinez wants that we are at every turn energized by the visual folly of his paintings, as to experience them unabridged facilitates a feeling of abandon, that is in stark contrast to a work reasoned by representation. “You need to be able to see it as one thing, not as different elements that are floating in space that aren’t helping it.” They are of the now, and to see them months, even years later, is to bear witness to the artist’ endeavor in that moment. For Martinez a painting “Should feel like it was a stamp, that it was done at once; that it is definitely what I am trying to achieve. And then within that you can move around, and be like ‘Oh well this is obviously not done at the exact moment as this, because this is super thick and this is really thin. But the overall feeling should be of just one thing;” as everything sits on the surface like debris.

And inspite of the overall flatness of his paintings, Martinez invites his audience to wantonly enter into an artwork as an artificial interior, with canvas walls and painterly objects as the fictitious furniture of his abstractions. Seeing his visions as a measure of his own fanaticism, “They are so frantic a lot of them, you can’t really tell what comes first and what comes after. That’s just been a natural thing for me and its been a useful thing for me”, his work reads like an antidote to everything else that is out there.

A decade ago I exclusively made flower paintings, and this is about as flowery as I am willing to get anymore. I kind of still enjoy the shape. I used to make flower paintings and still lifes of fruit and stuff, so those (elements) popping (into the new works) is in no way surprising.

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