Javier Martin, a multi-disciplinary contemporary artist, is on a mission to break boundaries and have us question, as a society, who we are and what we believe in. Politically and ethically charged, his deeper meaning approach to art and each of his collections to date was born of a life-long devotion to his passion which has seen him grow from is first exhibition at the tender age of eight back in Spain where he grew up, to showing at galleries an museums around the world. As a true artist, his limitless attitude sees him continuously evolve on his personal journey, which he allows be defined by one thing only: the message he wishes to bring to life.
Javier has been working on his current collection 'Blindness' for a collective 10 years. It is here he tests the limits we place on ourselves in terms of defining beauty and what is has come to mean in a world that tolerates nothing less than perfect. Here we speak to Javier about his discovery of art, the importance of expression and his devotion to eliciting a more curious culture that seeks answers instead of following conventional standards.
Javier, tell us a little about your journey into the art world...
I began painting in oil colors when I was seven years old, and my first show was for the CAJA Madrid Young Artist Award at nine. I have always worked in a creative way because art is my passion.
At what point did your passion, that clearly started so young, turn to something you were making a living from?
I never made a conscious decision to become a professional artist. Everything progressed in a very natural way. I have always lived for my art, and one day you wake up and realize this has turned into a career. This did not happen overnight though; I have been making art for over 20 years. For me, art is something that lives inside of you. Art is my whole life.
Your current collection, 'Blindness’ is captivating not only for it’s beauty but it’s deeper meaning.. can you share what this collection is about?
For ten years, I have analyzed society’s actions, explored superficial perceptions of what is beautiful and valuable, and questioned the theory of genuine beauty and truth. I transform and deconstruct this idea of manufactured perfection used in advertising to explore the warped notions of beauty and value. In my work, I always conceal the eyes. Eliminating one’s most compelling and expressive tool to me is representative of how society’s triviality blinds us and takes us further from what is truly important.
Do you feel being untrained - in the traditional sense of having studied art at college - has allowed you express yourself more freely as an adult artist, and in fact allowed you to remain uninhibited and limitless as the writer of your own story?
I do. I don’t subscribe to one specific style or medium. My focus is on communicating a message. My first contact with art was when I was seven and began painting in oil colors. In that class, my instructor gave me the freedom to experiment. I never painted to recreate an image like the rest of the students but painted what I saw in my mind or my emotions. From the moment I discovered art.
That was my only formal art training, as I did not have the opportunity to study art as I began working at a young age and I now apply the skills I’ve acquired to creating art. Travelling, visiting museums, meeting people around the world was my education. And still is. I believe art is synonymous with freedom. Art isn't above anyone or anything. That's the beautiful thing about art because it allows people to see things from different perspectives.
As an artist, how do you bridge the gap between the freedom of creativity and the restraints of consumerism?
I don’t feel those restraints on my freedom of creativity. I focus on making what I want and, if anything, consumerism is a source of inspiration for me. I base my art on my observations of society, what I create invites the viewer to think critically and reflect on the issues I believe are especially prevalent. Everything from consumerism, immigration, war, the game of politics and everything in between. I don’t criticize anything but merely put two realities together, and people can form their own opinion. Art has a purpose and should not just be beautiful. As an artist, I have responsibilities. I have the mission to say something meaningful.
‘Lies and Light’, one of your performance art pieces was revived with high regard, take us through the process of bringing such a performance together..
For many years I have been attracted to the idea of fully immersing myself into my work, creating something where I am completely present. With performance art it's interesting because it's art created at that moment and then it disappears forever, only the people present with you at that time get to keep a piece of the art. It’s something incredibly intimate and changed how I approach my work.
When I had the opportunity to do something like this, I decided to take all of my personal experiences and battles and transform them into a performance, connecting them to my Blindness concept and my work with lights. I felt very vulnerable when performing the piece, but I also a strange sense of power and release.
Can you tell us about your studio and take us through your creative processes there?
I look at my studio as my temple. Sometimes, I will just go there and walk around, clean things, move things around as if in a trance. Other times I will go with a clear idea and work until it’s complete. But usually, I am working on multiple projects.
Do you ever struggle with creative blocks?
I usually don’t because my mind is continually working and thinking. I have a book where I keep all of my ideas. Typically when I have an idea in my mind, I take out my book and write it all down. The problem is the battle of when I have the energy and the time to make the idea a reality.
Where do you find yourself most inspired? And by whom?
Every moment I live and experience is essential, but it’s interesting because I am often the inspired when I am by myself either immersed in nature or lost in my studio amongst my materials. It’s in those moments that I don’t have anything to distract me, I can reflect, and regain my balance. I grew up in Marbella next to Malaga the city where Picasso was born. He was one of the first artists I connected with when I was very young. Another artist who inspires me is Maurizio Cattelan as his art carries strong messages meant to revolutionize society. But everyday people and our culture inspire me the most because it’s the basis for so much of my work.
To what do you attribute your success thus far?
Three words. Consistency, time, and passion. Over the years, I have never lost focus, passion or my ideas. No one is going to fight for you or pave the way for you. You need to find your truth because that’s the only weapon you have to fight. I believe and trust in myself.
What exhibitions are currently catching your attention in terms of contemporary art?
The Michelangelo Pistoletto’s retrospective at Blenheim Palace.
Ai Weiwei’s latest city-wide public art installation ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors’ with Public Art Fund.
Daniel Arsham’s first solo show in Russia ‘Architecture in Motion’, at the VDNH's "Karelia" Pavilion.
What is it that you want people to take from your work?
I want people to take a minute and just think. We often do not not wish to see our reality and are blinded by so many different things within our society, there is nothing more dangerous than to lose the window to your interior and only focus on the superficial. Self-reflect and find who we truly are inside and what we really want from this life.
How does your art play a part in social change do you think and in essence pave the way forward for greater expression and less insecurity?
My focus is always on sending a message, the important thing for me is to make people think and reflect on where we are now as a society. I love the idea of changing the standards of beauty. I believe we still have a lot of work to do before we start to embrace everyone, not for their similarities but for their differences. I hope that the message in my art can help at least one person discover their light and the freedom that comes with it. As an artist I have responsibilities, I believe through my art I can change the world.
There a recurring thread of personal philosophy to each of your creations..
Yes, I want to express something powerful and meaningful because art has purpose and power, so it should not just be beautiful.
However, we live in a very superficial world, so I often use beautiful things to draw people in, because if it's disturbing, people tend to look the other way. My Blindness Collection is an example of this. At the end of the idea, we are all the same and dealing with many of the same challenges. Everyone possesses their own unique beauty. But what's most important is who a person is, what they think, feel, and believe.
What has been your greatest challenge to date and how have you dealt with it?
Fighting all of my life to become an artist and to be free from this system laid out by society. But believing in myself, listening to my interior and having a clear vision of the path laid out in front of me has really helped. No one is going to fight for you or pave the way for you. You need to find your truth because that is the only weapon you have to fight. I believe and trust in myself, I pick myself up every time I fall, and I always continue on my path. That is the only way to keep a dream alive.
And your proudest moment?
Seeing myself and my work in a museum for the first time. Earlier this year, I presented a video art of my first performance piece 'Lies and Light' in the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. Interacting with the people of that city and realizing that what I do as an artist has power, through my art I can affect change and accomplish my goals. I continue to learn about myself every day and the things I am capable of doing.
If you had one more hour in your day how would you spend it?
I would spend it creating and making art.