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Art & Life with Martin Beck

Today we’d like to introduce you to Martin Beck.

Martin, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’ve always been a figurative artist because of my fascination with people and how we live in our culture. For a long time, I made large multi-figural paintings with social and political themes, based on photos and invention. For the past six years, my work has changed because of an autoimmune arthritic condition. Standing or sitting at the easel for extended periods is no longer possible. I’m currently focused on drawing and painting from life in two-four hours-long sessions with the model.

These sessions may be a challenge, but the level of intense observation and control allows my body to “fall away.” It’s like a movement meditation. And focusing on another person in this way is uplifting and liberating.

I’ve come to believe that the nude speaks most directly of the human condition in that our bodies are road maps of our individual experience. To study another’s face and form is to understand their essential humanity: their frailty and imperfection. My own arthritic condition has allowed me to see more of these qualities in the others. I’ve also found that if you study anyone with the level of intensity my kind of figurative work requires, you see their beauty and strength as well.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
In this body of work, the nude figure is prominent on a ground alive with the artifacts of mark making, and sometimes supercharged objects that come from our turbulent time. These works on paper often contain palimpsests – ghost figures from previous drawings – that evoke half-forgotten dreams or alternate realities. With layers of images from multiple life drawing sessions I try to evoke shades of memory or as the 4th-century philosopher Augustine of Hippo wrote: “A present of things past, a present of things present and a present of things future.”

I use mixed media on paper that include dry pigments, watercolor, and watercolor media, ink and spray paint. One of my favorite ways of developing color is scraping together pastel dust and crumbs from my easel and the floor and making unique pastel colors with them. My main tools are chalk pastels, brushes, a random orbit sander, sanding blocks, atomizers and sometimes a garden hose.

There is a lot of accident in my work. I take old drawings, often a page of gestures, and manipulate them by spraying water, sanding and adding watercolor and dry pigment. So, with the ghosts of an old drawing, there are texture changes, drips, and blotches of color. Mark making is an important dynamic too, as I build the surface up over time through various life drawing sessions. I’m interested in creating a visceral experience for the viewer and provide a journey into the art-making process.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
The role of the artist is always changing because they are constantly rocked by their times. The prevailing fashion dictates the way one is supposed to work, and gatekeepers try to keep innovation at bay. And while fashion is ephemeral, the best art deals with the universal. So, there is a tension in trying to be current, while at the same time working towards larger themes.

For me, working from life and in the immediacy of the sitter’s presence helps maintain a connection to real life at a time when digital life can be overwhelming. In this way, life drawing is about the artist maintaining human interaction. In presenting themselves to the world the sitter collaborates in this process as an active participant. This collaboration now occurs at a troubling and turbulent time. Fact, if not truth itself, is under siege. By working from life, the sitter and artist are the revealing truth of a specific time, place and act. This cannot be faked; the finished work is an unmediated artifact of the act. Rather than think of these as portraits of people, for me, these are portraits of authentic moments.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My current solo exhibition, pal•imp•sests:bearing traces of an earlier form is at ARC Gallery, 1463 W Chicago Avenue, right here in Chicago from November 30 – December 22.  The show will travel to MS Rezny Gallery, 903 Manchester St, Lexington 40508 from February 19 – March 30, 2019.

Also, currently or upcoming, there are pieces in the Mixed Media exhibition at Site:Brooklyn from November 16 – December 22, Prince Street Gallery’s Eleventh National Juried Show both in New York, NY.  And from January 22 – February 15, 2019 two pieces will be on exhibit at Eastern Kentucky University’s Chautauqua Exhibition on the theme of Truths and Consequences.

My work will also be included in the Manifest Press publication “International Drawing Annual 13” coming out in 2019.

The best way to see my art is on my website and blog

I’m on social media:

And my work is available for purchase through:

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Martin Beck, M. S. Rezny

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