Artist Interview:Blandine Martin
– by Wendy Morley –
Artist Blandine Martin now lives in London, but was born in Aix en Provence in the south of France. “I also lived in Le Panier, which is the oldest neighbourhood in Marseilles,” she says. “It’s full of history. That’s where the French resistance used to hide from the Germans. Then later the gangsters lived there. During summertime, elderly people go and sit outside their house. If you stop and have a chat with them they will tell you amazing stories about their streets. Do listen to their southern accent; it is gorgeous!”
Blandine has traveled to Barcelona many times, but says traveling to India was the highlight of all her travels. “I loved it. Their contemporary art scene is incredible, their use of colors and composition are so very strong.”Her father artist Yann Martin was a huge influence on her as an artist, though she had plenty more famous influences as well. “I was obsessed with Picasso, and I think he remains one of the geniuses of 20thcentury modern art. I love Anthony Tapies and Pierre Soulage and Zoran Mušič. I find Louise Bourgeois and Frida Kahlo fascinating women, and I prefer Lee Krasner’s work to Jackson Pollock.”Blandine also enjoys street art. “East London is amazing to walk around to spot some incredible art. I’m a big fan.”
Wendy Morley: Mixed media is especially appealing to me. I call your work in my mind “organic mixed media,” because you do seem to work with natural organic substances. I picture you as a child collecting sticks and stones and shells and turning them into art. Is this your beginnings?
Blandine Martin: I like your interpretation “organic mixed media.” It’s exactly that. For me, creativity was always around. My earliest childhood memory is of the constant smell of oil paints and white spirit. My father Yann Martin is to this day a practicing artist. As kids my brother Johann and I were taken not only to all his exhibitions but also those of his friends. I remember running around with other kids in many galleries. Everyone seemed to be in such a good mood although there was also a lot of alcohol involved! My father has stayed very childlike to this day. He adds dimension and life to objects around him and has amazing perception and knowledge of art. So for me, there were no transition or big revelation. I was born into a nest of creativity.
WM: You studied at the school of architecture and design. To me this suggests a strong right-left brain connection if not complete balance. How do you feel the connections between the logical and artistic inform your work?
BM: I’m not sure actually, but I can be very dogmatic and think obsessively about a piece because it has to work on so many levels, between the story you want to express and the aesthetic. You are the composer and you lead the orchestra too! When that all happens simultaneously it’s truly magical. It makes me smile just to think about it!
But sometimes you can struggle too with a piece and get frustrated, so then the best thing is to walk away and go back to it later … sometimes years later! I just sold a painting that had been left basically to rot outside for five years. One morning I took it back and it all happened very quickly: the forms and textures.Knowing when it’s enough is a skill in itself. The Beauty is in the simplicity and its suggestion, That’s how I see abstract art – it should not, does not impose. I hope that answers you question!
WM: Mixed media brings an aspect of another dimension to two-dimensional work. You also bring another dimension into this, with your sculpture. Is there a reason you work in two or three dimensions at any given time or is this instinctive?
BM: Well it’s Instinctive mixed with an understanding of what I do and how I work, so there must be a definite pattern somewhere. Although Creativity ends the moment you become too self-conscious.
My alarm bell is when I get bored with doing a project. Then it’s time to move on for a while into sculptures or the other way round. I’m doing an installation of 111 sculptures called Trees of India , It’s a slow process; I need breaks away from it. Without breaks you start to repeat yourself or get bored and that makes the opposite of art. Then it becomes a business. You have to set yourself standard and be patient. It will take few years to finish but it will be an amazing achievement when it happens.
The Trees of India installation I started in 2015. This was inspired by a man named Shyam Sunder Paliwal, who planted 111 trees for every baby girl born in his village in India. He changed the girls’ lives by providing education for them and help for their families. He is an amazing, inspiring man. So I’m making 111 sculptures / trees in his honor. I have made contact with him by email, telling him how amazing I think he is and told him about the sculptures. I’m happy to say he likes them! I hope to visit him and make a donation to him. I’ve made 40 sculptures so far.
WM: I’m really fascinated with the intersection between having the urge to create, having the urge to reproduce what one sees (either literally or with the mind’s eye), feeling the need to share, feeling the need to express something — a message? An understanding? A moment? Can you please tell me a little about where you are on this multilayered spectrum?
BM: Everything you just mentioned is true but also directly influenced by your present circumstances. Not only your state of mind but also where you are physically. For example, when I just had my son, I worked when he was asleep in the kitchen. I used media that was easy to wash off so I could run and wash my hands quickly if my son woke up. I used medium-sized canvas so it would fit on the kitchen table. Your creativity adapts to your life and the rest of you!
It’s second nature to me. I never think: “This is the time to be creative or to share my inner thoughts.” I paint for selfish reasons. Then much later down the creative process the ego wonders how it will be received. I admit It’s a great feeling when people appreciate your work, understand it, talk about it and buy it. But that is not my primary concern. I do it out of a necessity for me.
WM: Have you ever felt trepidation in sharing your art? Did you feel exposed? Or growing up with an artist this leap had already been taken, so to speak?
BM: Nowadays everyone has an opinion and with social media it’s so easy to be a critic but also nasty about someone’s work. I had someone telling me last year that he wished I would die from the plague because he though my work was shit. Now, all I could think was “Why the plague??? Why not a more current disease?” This guy was into neo-classical painting so to him I was worthless but the plague made sense!
it didn’t affect me in the least. I know why I paint and why I paint what I paint. I also know and understand that not everyone will like what I produce and that’s ok because it would be an impossible task to please everyone. More importantly, it would not be a very interesting task. You have to, excuse the cliché statement, but you have to remain true to yourself. If you like what you do and you can justify it to yourself, then the negative criticisms are of no importance. You just carry on and on.
WM: Is there anything you hope people “get” from your art?
BM: I hope that they can project something of their own life into it. Once the work is out there, it belongs to everyone who looks at it. Art is a personal thing. Sometimes you like something but you not sure why and that’s ok too. Why do we feel we need to justify and explain everything and become some kind of “clever ” art critic guru? It’s ridiculous. Sometimes it’s just good to just let it happen. Enjoy the moment. Art is first an emotional event, then an investment, if that’s what you want.
WM: How did your father influence you as an artist? How do your children influence you?
BM: A huge amount! He and his good friend sculptor Jean Amado. I used to listen to them talk and think “wow!” It wasn’t what you might think – not at all pompous. They were full of humorous, colorful stories. No angst. Architecture was influential too. It taught me about discipline. I learned to see Beauty in brutal materials like concrete, and work with conceptual ideas.
As for my two kids, Ava and Louis, they remind me daily to stay fresh in my mind. Kids are great at saying what they really think, and not being bothered! Also I have become much more organized as a result of being a mother.
WM: What goals do you have as an artist, in general and for the coming year/years?
BM: I try not to think about it too much. I suppose steadily carrying on, learning more about my craft, create better visual composition. Maybe to exhibit in India? Take my installation “Trees from India” to India! It would be amazing to meet the man who inspired me to create this installation. Eventually, I would like to become an old eccentric French woman who makes weird stuff in the neighborhood. My kids said I have already achieved that, so one ticked off the list I guess !
See Blandine’s work @
Talented Art Fair at the Old Truman Gallery, Bricklane, London, on the 17, 18 & 29 March 2017. Talentedartfair.com
Le Dame Art Gallery at Meliá White House, Albany ST, Regent’s Park London, NW1 3UP from the 1st of February till 15 of March 2017. www.ledameartgallery.com
To see more of Blandine’s work and keep up to date with upcoming events:
Twitter : @ArtistBlandine