Interview with Martine Johanna

I; Hello Martine, I did the math, on 10 out of 10 illustrations of yours there’s a pretty young girl, who’s that?

M; Well, maybe on a first impression, but some are teens, some in their twenties, some thirties. The work is mostly autobiographic, so a lot of it deals with childhood memories, fascinations and that whole zone between being a kid and growing up and all the emotional turmoil that comes with it. Most of the characters are not airbrush perfect or standard but the color palette makes you feel that they are perfect, so any dark circles under the eyes or intense expressions do not feel negative.

I; I really love your color palette, I think you found a warm and surreal color mode in a way. How did you reach your final outcome, especially using phosphorescent paint, would you like to talk about your color technique?

M; Sure, I make under paintings where I decide the shapes and shading, after that I stack colors endlessly until I reach the correct dynamic of light, dark, and dimension. I like the use of colors since my drawings are often without any, I also like to make the medium visible and not to do any photo effect painting. The phosphorescent is only visible in blacklight or when heavily charged, it’s hardly noticeable.

I; I really enjoyed the feeling of loneliness and predestination that shines from your subjects. There’s an odd power that surrounds your characters and it pushes them through their own destiny. Is it something you’re looking for or is it just my private view?

M; That is how the characters are, I don’t want them to fall flat or be just pretty, I want life in them and experiences, because that is what makes people interesting. But whatever the viewer feels I feel is completely up to them, although a lot of people feel connection to these paintings and see something of themselves in them. And it is women and men that feel that connection.

I; It seems you manage to weave together a playful spirit of childhood with “adult themes” like facing sadness and anxiety. Which comes first – the playfulness or the inadequacy?

M; They are all completely one, we are a mixture of complex thought processes and experiences, just like happiness is never endless, but we remember it when it’s not there and call it hope. Happiness is an utopian state, and utopia is unobtainable perfection, so each of us seeks it, but actually knowing both hardship and happiness is much better, it makes you appreciate the value in both sides of the coin and it helps developing empathy.

I; I think we can find the concept of an “invisible world” into your paintings, an hidden treasure that adult people cannot see. Do you feel the same? If so, could you describe the need of telling this story?

M; Well, the world you live in as an individual, for a great deal exist in your head, with your memories, coping skills, sentiments, traumatic events, associations, self consciousness, self doubt, over confidence, all those things make your reality. It will influence your actions and decisions in daily life, and those actions will influence others, it’s one big fascinating narrative unfolding each second. We often don’t know what’s going on in that secret world, but that is what creates our perception and perception is reality.

I; I was asking myself, what do you feel you have in common with a teenager, I mean, when you were 13, what did you want to be?

M; Hah! I wanted to be an artist, not kidding, I knew that longer. I was a dreamer and would always make up my own stories and would draw a lot or play outside with the boys creating great adventures with dinosaurs and ancient discoveries. When I came in to my teen years I became more constricted by the outside world, all of a sudden a lot of my freedom was no longer allowed because of being a girl. I am super girly but also tough and I felt smothered and this led to some traumatizing events, that fight for survival also influences my work today.

I; Let’s go back for a moment to your beginnings, what was your urgency in starting painting, and what did you find during this process?

M; I came to live in Amsterdam on my own and I had the time of my life, this place you don’t get bothered by anyone and it allowed me to actually live some of my youth without any stigma. I felt more free than ever in my life and the painting, first drawing, came back naturally. I never did drugs by the way, my imagination is lively enough without substances. Drawing and painting and creating in general makes me feel so good,I also teach at an art school in concepts and creative research, which just balances everything out. It’s good to do something that is about others and does not evolve around ego. I love my students so much and recognize so much in them, I feel where they are coming from.

I; If you look at those first pieces, do you see something completely different from now? How has your work evolved over the years from when you were beginning?

M; Oh for sure, I was a whirlwind of energy when first living in Amsterdam, I had sh*t from the past to deal with but my Amsterdam experience was wonderful. I think that shows very strongly in my first works, energetic, raw and unfocussed. In my very first paintings you can also see that sometimes I am trying to find direction by looking to popular themes, but it didn’t work for me and I abandoned it.

I; And what about now, what pushes you through your art, what’s the engine power of your motivation?

M; I have no idea except that I can’t live without it and when I work it always frustrates me enormously because of my ambitions.

I; If you could change one thing about being an artist, what would it be?

M; Do you mean outside of myself? Well, maybe set way’s of what art should be, sometimes it’s so constricted, while art should have total freedom. No matter who you are, how old you are, how you express or what your background is.

I; Short answer. Something you’ve always wanted to do, but have yet to.

M; Sculpture!

I; Something you want the World to know about you.

M; I could be you, you could be me.

I; Something that annoys or frustrates you about people.

M; Being rude or/and prejudice.

I; What’s overrated/underrated today?

M; Overrated: million dollar art that is not seen but stacked away as investment.
Underrated: women in art

I; Thanks Martine for this chat, to conclude, tell me something about your future, tell me what would you like to achieve as goals in five months, and in five years from now.

M; Well, in five months I’d like to experiment more, an architecture road trip trough Europe with Louis and enjoying life more. In five years I’d like to have an house / atelier with a garden where we can play records, invite friends and travel around to exhibitions and museums.