Daniel Martin seeks to challenge our perception of beauty with his work. Bound in the moment, and to the human condition, Martin’s work asks why we call something beautiful and another thing ugly. What is the seed of that and why does it affect us? Check out his interview to read and see more:
Please introduce yourself.
I live and work in Leiden, the Netherlands. I was originally educated in multimedia design and had a company in 3d visualization where I worked on architectural projects, games, and movies. During that time I was painting a lot in the evenings, so three years back I made the decision to work full-time on my art.
Your work discusses beauty, specifically the imperfection of it, what about beauty fascinates you? What does the word mean to you? How has your perception of beauty changed as you’ve aged?
I have always been more interested in imperfection or deformation rather than something that looks ‘normal’. I see beauty in the abnormality of an organism or object because it becomes something we don’t see each day. When we look at a tree that is misshapen by disease and has big growths on its trunk, we don’t think it is an ugly tree. If we would apply it to humans it is a different case. That way of our perception of beauty is something I am interested in.
Do you think beauty is a construct? Could we re-calibrate our social perception of beauty? What would it take to do so? Should we?
Yes, it is a construct. I guess we have been re-calibrating our perception of beauty since the first civilization. Every culture or large group of people has a different view on what looks aesthetically pleasing. For instance, look at the fashion industry where they are slowly phasing out the idea that models should be thin and advocate that it is good to have a few more pounds, like the women in the renaissance era. It is something that slowly evolves from one thing to another, or back and forth in this case.
Where do subjects for your paintings come from? What connection do you have to your work? How does your emotional connection to a piece change while you are executing it? Do you ever become frustrated with a piece that isn’t coming out as you’d hoped or seen in your mind’s eye?
Most of the time my subjects do not exist. I usually start out with stains very loosely in the form of a face and go from there. When I have a form that works I take a photograph and put it on the computer. Then I take elements of faces from various photos and piece them together so it shows a face that is consistent with the forms I have on canvas. I take that image from the computer as reference and start painting what I ‘sketched out’. When everything is painted I re-paint certain parts again and the process repeats itself several times in most cases. It can be frustrating and it still is difficult to undo work by painting over parts you just spent hours on creating.
You’ve chosen a palette that is dark and somber, do you think the subjects that you’re discussing in your work is something that should be treaty so heavily? What does your color selection mean to you? What do you hope to convey emotionally to your viewers with your palette?
I don’t think bright colors would fit my theme. Although i have a couple of paintings with bright colors, but i try to push back the overall tones so it becomes fairly muted again. I look at nature for colors and tones mostly.
How do you decide what part of the face to mar in a specific painting? Do you feel like different parts of the face convey different meaning?
I work around the forms and shapes I initially am searching for. They dictate what should be left out. In the end I want a picture where the stains and heavily brushed pieces work together with the leftovers of the face. I want the different ways of assembly give the portrayed person character, but not enough to give it an identity. Beauty and identity is a shell I want to remove from the faces.
What are you working on now? What’s next for you?
I have been working behind closed doors on other subjects than portraits for some time now. I am fairly close to having results I am pleased with. I hope to show a couple of torsos in the next few months. Next to that I am working on landscapes with undefined buildings in them. They won’t be painted, but instead I will be using techniques from my 3d visualization past.