The Canadian virtuoso of the line, Chow Martin, has come back with a new concept for a new art experience.
Open Walls has met up with the artist to know more about his life and his motivation. Discover how Chow Martin has become nowadays a contemporary artist; his message, his technique and his path.
Can you tell us more about yourself? What did you study? What is your story?
I am the son of two hardworking parents who immigrated to Canada with hopes to give their children a better life than what they had. My artistic career began at a very young age although it flourished when I received a Fine Art scholarship to a top tier college in Detroit, Michigan called The Centre for Creative Studies. It was in Detroit where I was exposed to the concepts, techniques, materials and people that would shape an understanding and a burning desire within me to further explore the landscape of Contemporary Art. Unfortunately, after 3 years in Detroit, my scholarship ran out leaving me unable to afford the high cost of international tuition fees, so I was forced to move back to Canada where I finished my BFA in Printmaking at the Ontario College of Art and Design. During these years in Toronto I supported myself by tattooing and working nights as a janitor at a hospital where I found myself fascinated with human anatomy.
Your first aspiration was to become a tattoo artist, was it at that time that you learned how to draw?
It’s actually the other way around - my drawing talents, painting abilities and attention to detail led me to become a tattoo artist for a relatively short period of time. For reasons I still can’t come to grips with, shortly after graduating, I fell out of love with tattooing.
Your works shows a lot of dynamism even maybe aggressiveness in the drawing, yet the line always touch perfection, can you describe your techniques?
The technique I used for the Tank series is very simple and consists of basic drawing capabilities and attention to detail. It is my belief that the former characteristic may be learned and practiced, while the later component is a matter of genetics. It must be stated that concept and context are paramount; anyone can learn a technique.
As for the aggressiveness behind my work, this I cannot explain. Perhaps it is a product of my aggressive personality?
Tank Series, Bright Tradeshow, Berlin 2012
Tank Series, Bright Tradeshow, Berlin 2012
There is a great part of tension and conflict in your drawings, where do you draw inspiration from, and what are the subjects or themes that motivate you to create?
Tension and Conflict are two forces that my work has dealt with for as long as I can remember. Why this is, is not so easy of a question to answer. As an artist, part of the motivation for creating and experimenting comes from the need to explore those elements that are found inherent in the work itself, both from the audience’s point of view as well as my own perspective. I am constantly questioning my work, my life, my daily experiences and the relationships that affect my motivations. These questions are where I find inspiration and the NEED to do what I do.
You used to work for Adidas, Nike and Rebook among others, what impact working at those firms had on you? Did you learn any social or cultural issues?
From a philosophical point of view, the role of the commercial artist is to produce work that answers questions whereas the fine artist’s role is to produce work that asks questions. I’m not saying this in an effort to create a hierarchy between both creative parties, however, my philosophy falls within the second category. For this reason I have not worked with many brands on a commercial level and when the opportunity arose I was very lucky to have worked with companies, such as the ones you’ve mentioned, where my role was more of a collaborator and artistic strategist rather than an artist-for-hire.
What are your plans and your goals today as an artist? Is there a specific message you want to tell?
From a material and process oriented perspective, my work questions the originality and value of that which is handmade within an atmosphere saturated with visual pollution and digital reproduction. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way from my wide-eyed first years of art school when I thought I could change the world - I’m no doctor, philanthropist or foreign aid worker. Although a tiny grain of that voice persists, my goal is to create work that forces people to take a pause from the stress of their everyday lives even for just a second. Understanding intended meaning is very contextual and as long as I can engage people in meaningful dialogue I am doing my ‘job’. For now, the plan is to sustain myself through my work so that I can afford to keep on executing ideas.
What lies ahead is the exploration of a multitude of approaches to media and messages that may allow me to further express my thoughts and scratch the never ending itch that is the need to produce and get my hands dirty.
Can you tell us more about your new video “Sex Drug and MFM”, what is the new concept you’re launching?
Sex Drugs and MFM is an ongoing exploration into contemporary Pop Culture and the ways that digital methods of socialisation and communication affect our experiences. The concepts behind the project are in their relative infancy therefore its evolution is very amoeboid and exciting. The goal of the project is to create experiences that are not tied down to specific media, techniques or materials, rather, methods of communication that speak to and of our new Pop Culture: Mashup Culture. A culture of sluttyness where ideas of, and laws governing intellectual property are blurred by the re-appropriation of narratives, ideas and expressions.
Stay tuned. It’s gonna get dirty!
Chow Martin’s work will be on dispaly at Stroke Urban Art Fair from September 13th-16th in Berlin, Postbahnof.