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Christopher Martin: Nature Re-embodied

October 1, 2010 by Dale Youngman in Art, Artists, Features with 0 Comments

Christopher MartinAnna Meliksetian sits down with artist Christopher Martin to learn about his process and vision. Well known for his reverse glass paintings inspired by natural elements, Martin reveals a strong connection to nature that translates beautifully into abstract form.

Fabrik: Tell me about your paintings. I know your inspired by nature and that you had an aquarium business. How did that come about?

Christopher Martin: I had an import business where I brought in tropical fish and I always had them right in front of me. It was just about tuning into what makes them so desirable. I grew up in Florida so the water element of my work is very prevalent. These creatures are collected and sought after from all over the world because of how the universe put them together in a colored and patterned way. There are around 1500 different types so it just burns into your mind as color set. And then my paintings just kept fusing closer, not to paint the fish, it was about what I saw. It was the opalescence, the iridescence, the slight gradation of colors and how they faded together.

Fabrik: Your paintings are abstract so is it about how you’re processing what you’re seeing?

CM: It’s similar to how musicians pull influence from other musical patterns. I pull this massive color theory influence from these animals because I’ve looked at them so much that it just kind of created it’s own little subset in my head and then when I started working on the glass, I saw this amazing clarity, much like water because it’s not a permeable surface. So this stuff moves really fast. It’s got all the characteristics of water on a piece of steel. The fusion of that meeting just got me really excited and that’s where the patterns and replications of those color subsets felt right.

Fabrik: Can you describe your technique?

CM: You’re looking through a clear sheet into the first layer of paint applied as opposed to the last layer which is essentially what on a canvas or paper piece your eye catches. So it’s the opposite way, which to me is very forward because that is how you see. The first layer of paint that I put on is what you see first and to me it’s a logical order. It feels like I’m pushing things out as opposed to pulling them back to me. They belong together kaleidoscopically and have a real thin opacity. Every layer of paint has a high influence on the one behind as opposed to a flat static stroke. It’s around thirty layers of painting that fuse together.

Fabrik: Do you start with something that you conceive?

CM: Usually what happens is that these paintings have a lineage to the paintings before them. I’m working on the nuances of fusing things together. Concepts and paintings that I feel had a real impact on me. There are around 40 variations or series in my body of work that continue to evolve but not necessarily in a linear way. It’s like hybrids and they keep on linking together. You can see the pattern in the back of this painting has a tie almost to the back of that painting. You think of a family tree and then the first paintings I painted let’s say 17 or 18 years ago, and then there’s this first one. And then from there this lineage of work that pulls from all these influences. It’s so refined towards the bottom. You start getting down to real fine details. I want to always be ready to add that next layer of lineage and feel like the work can self generate.

Fabrik: What artist do you think would love your work and connect with it?

CM: I would hope it would be Brice Marden. I would love to shoot the shit with him one day. I think his branch paintings and his stick paintings are just cool.

Fabrik: It’s often difficult for artists to deal with the business of art but you’ve been involved in the commercial aspect of it early on in your career. Can you tell me more about that?

CM: To me it’s always felt completely natural that if you’re passionate about your work that you control an element of how your work meets the people and for me that was having my first little gallery space. When I opened the gallery it felt like this natural ease.

Fabrik: When did you open it?

CM: My first space was in 1994. It was a little space upstairs. I could work in it and I could set it up so that I could close the workspace off and it looked like a nice little gallery. Cool hard wood floors, this mid-century kind of modernist building across from a beautiful park in Dallas. It was 600 bucks and I don’t even think I had enough money in the bank when I signed the lease.

Fabrik: How do you balance your life where you have the energy and drive to paint and then have this business of selling art? You have four galleries now.

CM: I have a lot of help, but I had to do it all on my own for a long time. To me it was kind of like I made something that really moved me. It first has to get my signature on it. I have to feel like this is why I paint. This is why I want to look at my work when it’s finished and if I could get to that level I’m excited about it. Then I want to share it with someone else and I would love to share it with someone who wants to swap a check for it. That was just a natural feeling. The passion about the artwork is one thing but the passion about being an artist and continuing to be an artist, that’s my passion. So I know that I have to take care of my family and my kids, my businesses, and all my financial obligations that everyone has. That process is full circle. To me that’s the natural process of the whole thing.

A sampling of Christopher Martin’s current works are as follows:

More information about Christopher Martin’s work can be found at:

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