Text JF. Pierets Artwork Agustin Martinez
“Dancers don’t always know what they are doing”, “Revelations from a sailor from Rotterdam” and “The past is alert and ready” are just a few of the many intriguing titles of the work by collagist Agustin Martinez; a fellow countryman of Pablo Picasso, who coined the term collage in the beginning of the 20th century when it became a distinctive part of modern art. By transferring photographs and clippings into a new whole, Martinez creates his perfect dream world.
Tell me about your childhood.
I grew up in a little town in Castellón and come from a very creative family. When I was younger I tried many things; I played the trombone in a brass band, I tried to write and learned how to draw. I also very much liked reading and watching movies, which made me quite different from other people I knew in my village. 13 years ago I moved to Barcelona. I wanted to live in a big city because I couldn’t develop culturally the way I wanted, and also internet was not as up to date as it is now.
Is collage you’re preferenced ‘art-form’, so to speak?
To become an artist is a process, you don’t become one over night so I experimented a lot until I found what I’m doing now. Collage has been something that popped up over the years but with different intervals. Looking back it was a logical decision; I always liked art and movies, as a child I loved to watch Bette Davies and Audrey Hepburn, and somehow these impressions installed themselves in my head. I already started to paste images together when I was 12 and it’s interesting to see that there was indeed a composition, even at that young age. But who knows; I’m always thinking of ways to develop and maybe next year I find something else that drives me totally crazy. I truly celebrate the fact of being older because now I have the strength to pursue my passions, the strength to explain myself. But… I’m open to the things that cross my path.
You say you have to explain yourself. In what way?
The inner landscape is not only to explain in words and, at least for me, images make more sense. Collage is about combining different kinds of images to explain a feeling, or a mood, or just my reality. My work reflects on an exuberant world I would like to live in. Surrounded by beautiful things, fierceness and even the ability to fly. It’s not possible yet, but one never ceases to hope. Another motive is the search for my place in the world as a man. When I was a child and I cried, my father always said; “boys don’t cry”. I know this has also to do with my parents being from a different generation, but from the ‘60’s up to now, women have found ways to explain themselves. Men didn’t do that; we didn’t look for definitions of what is ‘manly’. I’m part of a workshop here in Barcelona called Men in Movement. It’s related to gestalt and performance; 15 men, moving, relating and expressing through movement. Some of them feel threatened and cannot find their place as men. Some are feeling not ‘man enough’ because they are different from their parents or they cannot relate to other men.
‘Collage is about combining different kinds of images to explain a feeling, or a mood, or just my reality. My work reflects on an exuberant world I would like to live in.’
Does it have to do something with the fact that you are gay?
In the workshop there’s no distinction between straight and gay. Some talk about their sexual orientation but most of them don’t, because it’s not important. It happens to both gay and straight men. Of course for me personally there is a connection; the queer theories came after the feminist theories, so as gays we are building our identity, we are still doing that.
Do you want to fit in?
Of course there is a part of me wanting to fit in and be comfortable around men. I don’t really know how to behave and that’s often weird. Sometimes I want to fit in and sometimes I don’t give a damn but socially it’s important that you do. You have to be self-confidant, which I’m absolutely not. I’m hiding behind my work, behind all those flowers and animals. So the main thing I like to learn is to be comfortable as a man and still be surrounded by non-aggressiveness and beauty. All is intertwined in my collages.
A client in the art gallery, who represents your work, found your collages very gay. You didn’t like that.
It’s what I’ve told you earlier; take a picture of flowers, combine it with a man and it’s considered gay. While I think my work doesn’t have anything to do with gender or sexuality and I hope it rises beyond the binaries of being straight or gay. For me it’s important to be considered an artist, and not a gay artist. Naturally I saw my share of gay movies and read gay books, but those books are mostly Barbara Cartland novels with gay characters. They aren’t necessarily good, but because of their gay narrators, it entitles them to some kind of audience. The world is bigger than that and life is not only gay or straight. That’s way too limited a thought.
How important are the titles of your work?
Very important, since they are also a part of the collage and complete the images I assemble. When I’m working my mind is circling around the title like a hawk and it’s tells a great deal about the full story. I like the idea that the title might help de spectators create their own tale on what is going on in the collage. Looking back I see that there are different types of characters in my work: the Sweet Warriors, the Dancers and the Sailor from Rotterdam are all personas that are trying to illustrate my views of the world and men.
What’s your goal as an artist? Go wild!
I would love to be able to live from my work and to be able to keep expressing myself. I’m not necessarily making work because I aim for recognition. I find it a bit absurd to dream of fame and money; it’s more of a thing I have to do in order to keep focused and to channel my deepest emotions. When I’m working I’m in a flow, I feel so passionate I even stop breathing. I want to magnify this, be big in this and reflect myself in what I do.
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