In August 2022 I joined The Sussex Arts Collective, an arts and crafts cooperative run by Phil Duncan that exhibits at Gallery Uno in Seaford High Street.
In October 2022, Phil chose me as the featured artist and below you can read the unedited interview that was published at Seaford Scene magazine.
Alej ez Oct 2022 UNO22 ELEVEN Seaford Scene Article October 2022
I was born in Granada and came to the UK in 2000 to visit my cousin who was working at the Park Lane Hotel in Central London. I was offered a job in the accounts department at the hotel which included live-in accommodation, so I accepted the offer as I had just finished studying for my architecture degree in Seville. So, my first address in the UK was in Mayfair – can you believe that? I experienced dazzling Soho, world class museums, cosmopolitan people and new cultures so it was an amazing time for me.
From 2007 I used to visit Brighton every weekend, so the natural next step was to move there full time, and I have lived there since 2011. The Southeast of England, and Brighton in particular, have a creative, vibrant and cosmopolitan population. Just a stone’s throw from the South Downs National Park it is like a William Blake dream with a coastline of staggering beauty.
The big question is why did I become an architect and then a visual artist? The answer is not as grand as I would like it to be. After high school, a friend suggested architecture as a career for me. The university studies kept me busy for nearly ten years and I graduated as a structural engineer, city planner and architect. I worked for several different practices and my first architectural job in the UK was for Rick Mather Architects. I was involved in the master plan for development of London’s Natural History Museum. It was fascinating to create visual proposals in which we included the exhibits of the roaring T. rex, the wandering skull of a Triceratops and the giant Blue Whale skeleton hanging in Hintze Hall. Imagine that! In Brighton I worked on smaller residential schemes as I enjoyed assisting people to renovate their homes. I specialised in the optimisation of spaces with less circulation, more room and better light and lovely staircases. My all-time favourite architects are Le Courbusier, Alberto Campo Baeza and Frank Lloyd Wright.
I was always drawn to visual arts and at school I was often selected to create art projects such as painting murals. During my university studies I participated in several art exhibitions, although it was in Brighton where I found my true creative drive. My first pieces were small architectural sketches that I sold at a fair just outside my home near St Nicholas Church in 2010. I recreated them as digital prints with the addition of block colours which I took to a print shop in the North Laine, Leo Frames, and that was the start of my commercial career as an artist. After twelve years, the essence of my work remains though it is more complex and layered now. I often remind myself to keep at it and persevere as the gateway to future success.
Inspiration comes from two sources of my experience. Firstly, direct experience of the natural world. I love my walks in the South Downs, the hikes up and down the coastal chalk cliffs and the leisurely seafront promenades of our towns. And secondly, direct experience of exposure to the work of other artists. There is so much to enjoy and learn from the work of Samuel Palmer to David Hockney, Ravilious to Ben Nicholson, Eric Slater to Ivon Hitchens, Goya to Dürer and Picasso. My motto is Love life, love art!
To create one of my prints I start with the creation of a monochrome ink drawing. I combine the use of pen and ink, lino, litho and collagraphs printmaking. I draw on sheets of specialised marker paper with calligraphic brushes, fine-line ink pens, sponges, sandpaper and other materials using watercolour, ink and charcoal. My prints are digitally created from my drawings. I scan them, add colour digitally and collate images in layers, similarly to the plates of a lithographic print. It is a very long, meticulous process, which can sometimes take up to a month and towards the end the print reveals itself when it kind of touches my soul with emotion, and then I know it is finished.
Currently I am working on a print with pheasants at Glyndebourne. I love the creation of compositions with a strong historic graphic element of the natural world combined with architecture. These designs echo 18th and 19th century illustrations of the natural world by artists like James Audubon or Thomas Bewick.
I have exhibited at The Grange Gallery in Rottingdean (Sept 2022), Gallery Uno, Seaford (2022), Chalk Gallery, Lewes (2022), South Hill Barn Sussex (2022), Sussex County Arts Club (2022), Gallery 94 at Glyndebourne (2020), the West Pier Centre (2019) and the Regency Town House (2016). My work is also available in different galleries in the Southeast, from Rye to Eastbourne, Brighton, and Chichester.
My base is in Brighton where I am a member of Studio Greenhouse, a cooperative of creative people where I have my working space. I am the resident artist with The West Pier Trust. I belong to Sussex Arts Collective and Chalk artist cooperative in Lewes and I run life drawing sessions at an arts club in Brighton’s North Laine.
Alej ez (Alejandro Martinez)