It’s been a proud month in the galleries on Queen West for my alma mater, with two graduates from theSheridanCollege/UniversityofToronto Artand Art History program showing within steps of each other. Clint Roenisch was packed last Friday with onlookers cooing over Dorian FitzGerald’s glossy images of luxury. A general giddiness surrounded those lucky enough to get a look through FitzGerald’s imported stereoscopic spectacles to view two smaller identical paintings at the back of the show pop into 3D.
Across the courtyard, the walls of Edward Day Gallery are filled with the work of young artist Linda Martinello, a current master’s student at University of Waterloo. We met over coffee to discuss travel, the exploration of self, the sublime, and of course, art. Probed by her mentor, Denise Thomasos, to fully explore the timeline of her artistic inspirations and resulting practice, Martinello was well prepped to reveal to me the biographical and esoteric roots of her work.
Simplistically, her work is an effort to recapture the sublime sensibility and temporary ability to discard one’s sense of self that can be experienced during travel. This kind of rhetoric comes after years of the artist questioning the validity of landscape art as contemporary practice. The doubts are unsurprising given the highly conceptual framework of her art education, but unfortunate considering how landscapes were the animus for Martinello’s choice to attend art school in the first place.
Sipping on her black coffee and becoming increasingly more inspirited, Martinello took me back to her first trip abroad to a small village inItalyfor her grandmother’s funeral. The surreal experiences of meeting family with whom she could hardly communicate, visiting a foreign cemetery filled with ancestors’ graves, and seeing her lifetime in framed photos in an unknown grandmother’s home introduced the artist to the addictive experience of exploring one’s identity while immersed in the unfamiliar.
Though this excursion fueled the artwork of her OAC year of high-school, leading to a scholarship in visual art, Martinello virtually abandoned the panorama as her muse until her next trip toItaly3 years later. A trip to her mother’s homeland,Mexico, the following year, and an entire year spent inItalythe subsequent year led Martinello back to landscape exploration. It wasn’t until her brother graduated from architecture school however, that the artist happened upon her current method of working.
Inheriting from him a large roll of mylar, Martinello was finally able to produce work with the same abandon that she was feeling during her journeys abroad. Let go from the all-to-common fear of destroying the perfection of a primed canvas, she began to experiment on seemingly disposable reams of the acquired roll. Large scale mylar works remain as Martinello’s signature style. After laying down a quick ground with oil paint using colours noted in extensive non-visual reference made during travel- mostly words jotted within streams of consciousness- Martinello retells her feelings of that place, and within that moment in time, using graphite on the wet paint.
Her increasingly abstract sketches cause one to imagine the graphite twirling through her fingers as she draws. The surface of the paint is scratched away to varying thicknesses by lines alternately undulating and slicing through her almost random colour palette. Though she approaches the initial space with a vision of the geographic surroundings within her imagination, she makes no attempt to match the black graphite lines with the accompanying background. The artist encourages the viewer’s mind to wander along with her own, as her lines stray onto the uncharted blank spaces of the page.
Increasingly, her motivations; inspirations and research are embedded in musings on perception and consciousness. Her process continues to spiral further into a sort of meditative automaticity and absorption into memory. It’s debatable whether these works can even be called landscapes in the traditional sense, when so much of their creation relies on the artist’s visceral experiences. Ironic really.
Linda Martinello’s paintings are on exhibition at Edward Day Gallery until Saturday, November 26, 2011.
With just five weeks until motherhood, and the wintery silence of the art world nearing, I am expecting this to be my last post of the year. Thanks so much to everyone for reading and I look forward to sharing my conversations again in the spring.
Feel free to become a follower to avoid the anxiety of having to check in anticipating my next post…;) And most of all, happy holidays!