The work of Shantell Martin is a meditation of lines, a language of characters, creatures and messages that invite her viewers to share a role in her creative process. Part autobiographical, and part dreamlike whimsy, Martin has created her own world that bridges fine art and the everyday experience — conversations, objects and places. We spoke to the artist about her practice and her interactive digital drawings to be performed at Digital Graffiti Festival at Alys Beach this June.
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First Steps into Digital
With regards to beginning to work digitally, that almost happened by mistake while I was living in Tokyo and was asked to draw live at an event. My work at the time was super small and detailed, so I thought it would be best to draw under a camcorder and project the live results of me drawing, which lead to my first career as a Visual Jockey.
For a bit more on my back story, I recommend checking out my recent talk at FITC Toronto.
Firstly my practice is more involved on a personal level. My goals are to focus on being kind, less angry, healthier, honest, compassionate, more forgiving, more positive, to keep learning, growing to be more patient, and respectful. All of these things take huge commitment and tremendous hard work, leading to you naturally feeling inspired and motivated. I feel that you can witness this journey within my art practice and work. I want to share what I learn and discover, I want to share the questions and ideas that find me, and I want to continue this adventure of self exploration using the tool of my language, of words and lines.
My creative goals are more internal. However when drawing for example, no matter what the scale — be it a 200-foot wall or a small piece of paper — I start all my drawings in the same way, with what I call my DNA: a first continuous line that ideally fills the canvas leaving behind clues. After the DNA line, it’s simply like a crossword puzzle, with one thing leading to another. So the work becomes both very free and spontaneous, while having this layer of process underneath it.
Digital Graffiti Performance
I’ve been creating live drawn visuals at Digital Graffiti Festival for a few years, first in 2009 then 2011, 2014 and now in 2015. For every festival, I’ve created large scale projection drawings which also invite the audience to take part or become a part of the drawing. These performances are inspired by my Hidden Ora concept that I used to perform in Tokyo before I made the move to New York.
As I mentioned I’ve been performing at Digital Graffiti since 2009, but this year is the first that I took part in their new residency program. It meant that I was able to actually spend some time in Alys Beach and familiarize myself with the buildings and layout of the area, which inspire a specially made piece of work for the show.
I’ve just launched a new collaboration with Martone Cycling Co. and Artspace. A collection of hand drawn on bicycles, drawn to order. I’m also working with amfAR, I’ll be involved some of their future events and releasing a pretty cool beach towel, which everyone needs to own!
Collaborating with talented people is super rewarding. I’m always inspired by people who I know, see or meet who have that ‘thing’ that they totally are obsessed with. I also really enjoy seeing people work hard and progress. You see them always pushing forward, always growing. I don’t love to code, so I collaborate with people who do, and I don’t have a fashion label or make beautiful bicycles so I collaborate with people who do. The world is my canvas, so why would I put myself in a box?
Shantell Martin is a NYC-based artist working primarily in the mediums of drawing, performance, and digital projection. She is currently a visiting scholar at MIT Media Lab and is also an adjunct professor at ITP, NYU.
Learn more about her work by following @shantell_martin and at www.shantellmartin.com.
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