Works and thoughts by Daniel Martin
text by Pirita Litmanen
DANIEL MARTIN (b.1982) is a painter working in Leiden, the Netherlands.
In his work Martin intelligently blends computer accurance with the nature of humane mistakes. Once you see a painting of his, you want to know the story. So we asked, and here is what he told us.
In your artwork you portrait characters with deformed,
even destroyed features. Are these characters real or imaginary?
What is the story behind destroying the faces?
The portraits are mostly fictional. I use photographs and take out certain parts, in order to create a new face. This way of working allows me to create faces that don’t actually exist, but the characters still look familiar. I’m not trying to portray a specific person, but something more along the line of a common human identity or ego – to show something we all possess. I dematerialize the ego by breaking up the face, by letting it return in some state of spontaneity we can also see in nature. A chaos bound by rules. That spontaneity or chaos plays an important role in my work. It gives the paintings that loose, unfinished feel. My earlier works are more finished and do not show that impermanence of matter. I try to let that go more and more. But I still make paintings that look more finished as well, to visualize different stages of degradation.
Take an apple that is rotting for instance. In the beginning it only loses a bit of it’s shiny skin and becomes dull, but it still looks good. After a while there is not much left, it’s taken back by nature. It’s a fascinating process.
How did you begin painting?
As with most artists, the need to create, surfaced early in my life. I drew and painted a lot in my youth. Around the age of fifteen I got interested in computers. I enrolled in a study for computer graphics. Afterwards, with two friends, I started a company specialized in 3D-visualization.
I wasn’t able to paint much during that period. After a few years I missed painting so much that I enrolled in a part-time art academy course. When I finished the academy course I left the 3D-visualization company and started as a full-time painter. It was a couple of years ago.
What is your biggest source of inspiration? What makes you paint?
What really makes me paint is difficult to explain. I think we all have the need to leave something behind when we die, something to be remembered for, so our identity doesn’t get lost. That’s the same identity that I’m trying to destroy in my portraits. Most inspiration comes from a combination of nostalgic moments and nature. Moments of melancholy, beauty that is gone. It can be a wall in a house that was once inhabited by a family and then abandoned, only to be taken back by nature. The walls are overgrown with rot and plants. Stripped of its former identity by nature itself.
One could say your paintings have a touch of chaos in them. What is your process like, do you first paint the faces and then destroy them?
That is different for each painting. I always start with a spontaneous, free image. An abstract depiction of a face I see in my mind. In the beginning the painting is nothing more than wild stains and strokes where I leave room for mistakes – mistakes I later use for the construction of the face.
When I have an image I’m satisfied with, I take a photo of it and put it on the computer. I use the computer as a sketchbook and start to look for a place to put the realistic parts of the face. I take various photos of faces and put them together like a collage. Once I get something that works for me I use that image as a reference and start painting. It is only on rare occasions that this happens only once. Usually this process reoccurs after I have the realistic parts on canvas. I paint over them in wild movements, take a photo, and start sketching again on the computer. A painstakingly slow process, but it creates those multiple layers between destroyed and realistic. So to answer your question; I do both.
How do you see beauty, what is beautiful to you?
Like the saying: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You see beauty in something that interests you, and when everything seems right about it.
I often see beauty in something that could be considered ugly. I can understand that people see beauty in a flower, I do too, but I think a rotten flower is more interesting. It is something more out of the ordinary and thus gains more beauty in my opinion. Our standards of beauty are quite weird anyway. A deformed tree with growths or sickness on it’s trunk is normal for us, but if it would be a human being with a similar appearance it would be something more out of a bad horror movie. It would disgust people.
I would probably be disgusted too, but that’s kind of weird isn’t it? I mean the growth would be practically the same thing on the tree as on the human. Only our perception of it is different.
What is your favorite color?
I am not sure if I have a favourite colour. The muddy mixture of ten colours on my palette, or maybe just black or white. But those last two aren’t real colours, so I hope you understand my indecisiveness.