TRISTAN MARTINEZ. daily business
Regardless of whether it’s relatively peachy, tense, or rather terrible at this very moment, life has the tendency to feel somehow banal and predictable. It’s almost like a protective mechanism kicked off by the fear that if you understood the whole thing too deeply, you’d immediately become self-conscious. And Tristan Martinez, a multidisciplinary artist born in Los Angeles but currently residing in NYC, is a master of pushing particular dilemma and all its implied mundane aspects of daily life within our capitalist society into the limelight. Dividing his time between painting, photography, and skateboarding, his work challenges the audience with ambiguous narratives and snapshots that defy identification and location at first impression. On second glance though, it deals with topics that subtly punctuate the mess we’re all in.
Lodown reached out to the up-and-coming artist in early June.
Tristan, how did you get into photography in the first place? And how come you developed a soft spot for painting with oil colors rather recently?
I got into photography through my Dad and my older brother, but my obsession with cameras and being mesmerized by the world around me started when I was much younger. I would always go into camera equipment stores and just look at the lenses and different camera types. When I was handed down my dad’s Canon A-1, I was able to capture what was around me and what I felt was important. I really went full swing into art and photography after getting injured skating and needing something to do in my downtime while I recovered.
I feel oil painting has been a natural progression for me. Much of my thinking with photography carries over to my painted works. I definitely paint through the lens of photography. I think the time and consideration with oil painting has been more gratifying for my art practice lately, but it’s nice to go back and forth from photo to painting.
How hard was it for you to develop your own visual language as a photographer in times where images are omnipresent?
Haha, I am definitely still developing my visual language. I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing that images are so omnipresent… it’s great to have inspiration and see what other people are doing and making, too. I feel like I’ve been able to develop my own visual language from exposure to so many different reference points - images, art, my own experiences, and so on.
How much did skateboarding inform your work as an artist? And how much does living in NYC?
I think skateboarding has had a big influence on my awareness of art. Skating, in a lot of ways, is an entry point to expand to other forms of art. Surprisingly, the gap between skate culture and the art world isn’t a far leap. For me, growing up skating carved a way of paying attention and noticing things around me that are commonly overlooked. That being said, I don’t necessarily make work about skateboarding or work that directs back into it… although, maybe unconsciously, I do.
Living in New York exposes you to so much so quickly, just like skateboarding. I think living in NYC is helping to influence my artwork in a way that can mesh the dialogues of my east coast and west coast experiences and complicate my visual language.
Please tell me a bit about the books you’ve already published.
I’ve published two books and a handful of zines. My first serious publication “I Used to Be Pretty“ was based around the changing environment of the communities in which I grew up in Los Angeles. While in undergrad, I continued thinking about the physicality of the book format and meshed different forms of sequencing to make the experience a little bit more interactive - with a clam shell encased sequencing game called Knee Sweat. My last publication “Heads“ took sentiments from Knee Sweat but put them back into a serious tone like that of “I Used to Be Pretty“. “Heads“ is a visual study of the trivial interactions we encounter in our day-to-day life.
The book format is really fun to experience and attempt to make a difference with, and it is definitely my favorite way to consume photography. Although I've transitioned into painting, I still make images every day and am collecting them for a new publication, which will hopefully be released in 2024.