Mario Martinez (MARS-1)


Last year I received an e-mail from someone who had ordered banknotes from my Exchanghibition Bank project. That someone was Mario Martinez aka MARS-1, who sent me an e-mail including a picture of a live-painting he had done with some other artists at Burning Man. This led me to Google to find some more of his work and delve into and get lost in his wonderfully abstract, multi-layered seemingly alien landscapes with lots of detail. Paintings which invited me to take a look beyond the surface and go on a journey into the worlds he has created.

Mario Martinez began writing graffiti when he was 13 and finished his School of art in San Francisco where he currently lives, still very active in the city’s contemporary art scene. Besides using brushes on the usual material he paints high buildings in cities and makes sculptures of bronze, participated in so many projects, exposed in so many galleries. Early inspirations include: graffiti, animation, comic book characters, UFOlogy, extraterrestrials, unexplored life, mysteries of the universe, alternate realities and the abstract quality of existence.

Then, as so often happens in our frantically-paced world, other things happened, new projects, more paintings, so much stuff going on in the interweb world that for a while my eye lost sight of those paintings, but they found a safe place stacked somewhere in the art library of my sub-consciousness, ready to be picked up again when the moment was there.


Recently that moment happened when Judith of Amsterdam Enjoy mentioned Mars-1 and the possibility to do an interview with him. A chance to renew my interest in his paintings and maybe learn some more via long-distance virtual communication, which hopefully might be followed up with a real life encounter with him in the desert at Burning Man 2012. Time to rinse my brushes, clean my hands, and start typing some questions.   

Because of the above Burning Man seems a good place to start my questions - Burning Man with all its dust seems a pretty hostile environment for painting , but you did a live-painting out there in both 2010 and 2011. So what made you come back? And how did Burning Man influence/inspire your work?


We definitely allow elements of the surrounding area to seep into the painting. It was interesting to interface with an environment that lets you fall into your natural rhythm and hours of operation.  With five people/friends painting together, what starts to emerge immediately is the "day shift" and "night shift."  Personally, after a couple days my schedule would usually mean I would start painting  around 8 p.m.  and go on until  6 a.m. when I would take a break to watch the sunrise.  I would then go back  to paint for a few more hours before going to sleep around 10 a.m.

When Burning Man ended, and I would get back home, the day-to-day scenario this special mode of operation quickly disintegrated in the wake of small children dancing around my bedroom at 7 a.m. :).  Being a painter can, for the most part, be a solitary sport as well as an opportunity to be creative with others and have a meaningful dialogue with others.  In that context, it is a welcomed change of pace and an escape from my own creative inner-space, expanding ( the) my view by peering in to other infinite worlds within .

I love the conversations with the random folks who stop by and hang out. It can get pretty far out. From time to time, I have to remind(ing) myself where I am.  The often dilated nature of some of the people who engage me are usually not the average person one would encounter on the streets. To be quite honest, I find some of the ideas/concepts they throw around at such events on a regular basis to be extremely creative and inspiring.  Surprisingly, some of these conversations end up pleasantly haunting my future thoughts consciously and subconsciously for years.

Last weekend I went to the Documenta exhibition in Kassels. Participants this year came from a range of fields of activities. Not just art but also from science, including physics and biology. Looking at your work also gives a feeling of science, so I was wondering if you felt a connection to the scientific world? Or is it more a world of alien encounters and sci-fi?

I feel a connection to all of the above. I am particularly fascinated with the gray fuzzy areas where art can perhaps probe further into different spectrums where merely words may fail us.  Achieving this is maybe a different story. Encouraging others to superimpose and attach their own meaning to the artwork.  I guess what I am trying to say is - Its' something I am shooting for, always trying evolve in that direction...

Your work seems on the one hand very structured and pre-meditated. Especially certain details seem to be very well thought out in advance, and almost feel like designed on a computer, whereas on the other hand your paintings have a very organic feel as if they automatically flow out of your subconsciousness. So I was wondering how your working process goes; is it one big creative explosion, or is it a well-thought out process?

The process is very much about Exploration, Experimentation and the Opportunity for growth. At the same time, it involves trying to build on the works that came before it.  I rarely start out with a plan, or predetermined outcome, for the most part.  However,  there is an occasional painting that is based on a clear vision, worked out in my head before the painting process begins.

Do you sketch a lot and use those sketches to guide you through your painting process?

Usually, if I get stuck and have trouble conjuring up new ideas in a painting, I'll flip through my sketchbook to stimulate ideas.  I love my sketch book for capturing  fleeting ideas that I would otherwise probably forget about. It also serves as a reminder of what I was thinking at the time of the sketch.  These days though,  I find that I am working more ideas out on the painting itself,  and look less at my sketchbook for reference. I tend to spend more time with my sketchbook when I travel.  For me it's especially important to draw a lot before starting on a large body of work.  Over time, I have taken note that the quality of the doodle/drawings can serve as a meter of how creative and focused I am at any given day.  Obviously we all have our inspirational highs and lows, sometimes the sketchbook can act as a compass to guide me back on course.

With so many layers and details it's easy for the viewer to get lost in your paintings. Do you sometimes get lost in your own paintings?

Definitely! During the process of creating the painting a lot of problem solving and ideas pop into the mind's eye.  This way, especially when the painting gets to a certain point, I get creatively stuck.  Just staring at and getting lost in the painting can lead to unlocking the next step.  After it's finished though, I usually need some time away from it, maybe even a year, before I can really look at it again subjectively without getting all caught up on the tiny shit  nobody else probably would ever notice.

Do you feel that you yourself are creating your paintings, or that by being an artist you have the right antennae to pick up energy that is floating around?

Funny you should ask.  I have wondered about that before. There have been times that it really feels like I am channeling information, almost stumbling over myself trying to get it out as fast as the signal is streaming in. Unfortunately, that does not happen as often as I would like it to. I do believe, however, there is a natural depth in man which can be tapped into, a place where we can reach within to push ourselves  to higher potentials! This may be a collective dream that we all share.  It is called reality, a magical motherfucking place that we don't really understand. What's possible is largely unknown; so, I like to keep my eyes and my options open.


Facebook Like button