Electric Youth

MADS BAJARIAS | As a kid, Piaget Martelino was always drawn to art. He would have wanted to study the fine arts, but when he was offered a baseball scholarship in De La Salle on the condition that he take up sports and recreational management, he accepted. It was a rare opportunity, after all. But the dream, apparently, never died. When his team traveled to the US for a competition, a chance visit to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco re-kindled the dream. He has since spent his time painting and sculpting.

A childlike sense of energy and fearlessness permeates his painting "Xabin." The work is a fresh take on child portraiture. How many times have we seen excellent artists churn out child portraits which are exquisite yet devoid of animation and spark? In "Xabin," we get inside childhood's unrestrained universe. In it, we get electric youth.

Martelino answers our questions.

What medium did you use in "Xabin"? Size. When.

PM: "Xabin" is acrylic on canvas, 2.5 feet by 3 feet. I finished it in March 2008.

Tell us about the psychedelic patterns.

PM: I started adding patterns to my paintings to add movement and depth. I have always intended to portray playfulness and whimsy in all of my pieces. It's actually my color palette, and not so much the patterns, that give my paintings the psychedelic feel.

Do you consider American psychedelic artists an influence?

PM: I'd say it was the music, fashion and pop culture of the psychedelic era that influenced me more than the artists. The combination of the playfulness of surrealism and the freedom of automatism is what defines my style the most.

My earliest influence was Wassily Kandinsky. My work started out with mainly lines and color. It was just later on, around 2003, that I introduced patterns and biomorphic shapes.

Other influences I suppose would be the surrealists Joan Miro and Hans Arp for their biomorphic shapes. An artist whose work I really enjoy, although wouldn't consider an influence, is Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I love his use of patterns and his architectural style.

When you say "automatism," what do you mean?

PM: Automatism was invented by the surrealists, using it first in their poetry, and later on in their drawing games. There is actually more than one definition of automatism. I've adopted Motherwell's definition of automatism as being "actually very little to do with the unconscious. It is much more a plastic weapon with which to invent forms."

Do you consider yourself more a painter or sculptor?

PM: I see myself more as a sculptor. What I love about sculpture is that unlike painting, you're actually making a solid object out of nothing, and not just pushing paint around to form an illusion of something.

My sculptures are done in either a plaster or industrial glue mixture which I started using in 2003, or in cast resin. I always paint my pieces to bring out the playfulness of the forms.

Tell us about the subject in "Xabin."

PM: "Xabin" was a commissioned painting for a 3-year-old boy. What I enjoy most about this painting is its size. Most of the commissions I get for portraits are a bit small, so I was able to put a lot of movement, patterns and color into "Xabin."

The kid Xabin and his family really enjoyed the portrait. They thought it really captured his personality and it was different from other portraits that they've seen.

Where can people go to see your art?

PM: Everyone can see my art at my website.

Currently, I have some pieces displayed at Lunduyan Gallery, 88 Kamuning Road, Quezon City and PROSE Gallery, 3rd floor, 832 Arnaiz Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

Thank you Piaget.

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