Sustainable Anxiety

Pow Martinez
Silverlens, Manila

Installation Views

About

    Our only escape from the corners of our living spaces is the vast realm of the internet. What was once a promising domain of enjoyment and entertainment has now evolved into an information wasteland. Today, we are burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes us feel numb and, sometimes, helpless. Its unsettling facts and figures only aggravate this heaviness. The amount of time we spend consuming is greater than the amount of time we spend doing. But can we actually alter the fate of the world by changing our lifestyles? What will happen when the world finally crumbles? Attempting to answer these only leads to more existential questions, leaving us in a constant state of worry.

    Sustainable Anxiety is Pow Martinez’s humorous yet dark take on living in this modern age of uneasiness. Martinez’s cartoony style — often grotesque with nameless characters in odd settings — mimics the covert strangeness of daily life. Blending the mundanities of the everyday with elements of pop culture, from films to music to famous imagery in art history, he uses sights and sounds that resonate with him as starting points for his paintings. Just as in previous works, Pow Martinez paints the world as he sees it, resulting in wildly expressionist visual treats. He continues to explore societal roles and consumption in contemporary culture. In these new works, Martinez sheds light on how we have become spectators of our own downfalls as we inch closer to the apocalypse.

    In Sustainable Anxiety, Pow Martinez considers our desire to disconnect, the introversion and fear that come with it, and our inability to ever be truly offline. For instance, divine intervention shows a living room decorated with paintings of Philippine landscapes, where a nude woman sits at her computer, video chatting with God. Martinez looked to interior design catalogues of homes from the 80s to create this familiar scene. Yet, this familiarity is unnatural. Martinez twists figures and compositions, using exaggerated proportions and unorthodox colors, to hint at the synthetic quality of our lifestyles. In his work spiritual pursuit, a figure stands naked in the woods with two dogs. This eccentric scene further illustrates how being outdoors — something organic to our species — is now a novel occurrence. We want to break away from our screens, but disconnecting risks alienating ourselves from the world. The idea of disconnecting has become a romantic illusion we strive for. Martinez illustrates our real natural state: sitting indoors and constantly connected.

    His roguish characters are up to their misdeeds, offline and oblivious to the underlying tension in their lives. In a neon-toned, panoramic diptych subterranean city, the border patrol stands over watch, never moving from his post to exert his authority, while hands emerge from the depths of the earth to tell us that it is the time of the witching hour. On a large-scale canvas, a rider on her horse leads an empty army to a battle against no one. In charismatic cult leader, we see a nude cult worshipping a pagan spirit, and in special forces, a soldier driving a tank near a church. An opera singer performs with a full orchestra while the audience watches astounded in the soloist. Three figures go about their business, even as the ground cracks beneath them in law and order. Martinez’s rogues stare blankly at us as they carry out their ‘expected’ duties. He captures the ever-present individual and relational conflicts that call for speculation and examination amid all the man-made chaos.

    All of these rapscallions are bound to a higher power, and as much as they try to break away to freely act, they can’t. Trying to determine what or who this higher power is, or even trying to decipher fact from fiction, takes us to a conversation on metaphysical matters beyond our grasp. Martinez recognizes this, but paints reality as he sees it: that it has become a spectacle in itself, full of existential dread, bad faith, and paranoia, as well as acceptance, humor, and suspense. He amplifies the quality of his shocking paintings with his acute awareness of the peculiarities of our technology-obsessed ways. In our continued search for meaning in this information-laden dystopia, Pow Martinez’s Sustainable Anxiety is an invitation to savor these reflections of realities for as long as possible, a temporary escape from this modern age. Yet, as hard as we try to immerse ourselves in these worlds, the heaviness of our own reality continues to linger.

    - Isabelle Fabella

    Pow Martinez's (b. 1983) paintings belie their grotesque subject matter with the indelibly beautiful surfaces and a wide-ranging, daring use of color. Mutants, monsters, demons, deviants, and freaks lurch, sit, and appear to transform amidst weirdly lit landscapes or disintegrating urban scenarios, or emerge from a painterly graffito mess, but, as his more abstracted works insist, Martinez’s ability to render intriguing relationships between forms and surfaces ensure his works are endlessly compelling—an experience akin to a beautiful nightmare.

Our only escape from the corners of our living spaces is the vast realm of the internet. What was once a promising domain of enjoyment and entertainment has now evolved into an information wasteland. Today, we are burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes us feel numb and, sometimes, helpless. Its unsettling facts and figures only aggravate this heaviness. The amount of time we spend consuming is greater than the amount of time we spend doing. But can we actually alter the fate of the world by changing our lifestyles? What will happen when the world finally crumbles? Attempting to answer these only leads to more existential questions, leaving us in a constant state of worry.

Sustainable Anxiety is Pow Martinez’s humorous yet dark take on living in this modern age of uneasiness. Martinez’s cartoony style — often grotesque with nameless characters in odd settings — mimics the covert strangeness of daily life. Blending the mundanities of the everyday with elements of pop culture, from films to music to famous imagery in art history, he uses sights and sounds that resonate with him as starting points for his paintings. Just as in previous works, Pow Martinez paints the world as he sees it, resulting in wildly expressionist visual treats. He continues to explore societal roles and consumption in contemporary culture. In these new works, Martinez sheds light on how we have become spectators of our own downfalls as we inch closer to the apocalypse.

In Sustainable Anxiety, Pow Martinez considers our desire to disconnect, the introversion and fear that come with it, and our inability to ever be truly offline. For instance, divine intervention shows a living room decorated with paintings of Philippine landscapes, where a nude woman sits at her computer, video chatting with God. Martinez looked to interior design catalogues of homes from the 80s to create this familiar scene. Yet, this familiarity is unnatural. Martinez twists figures and compositions, using exaggerated proportions and unorthodox colors, to hint at the synthetic quality of our lifestyles. In his work spiritual pursuit, a figure stands naked in the woods with two dogs. This eccentric scene further illustrates how being outdoors — something organic to our species — is now a novel occurrence. We want to break away from our screens, but disconnecting risks alienating ourselves from the world. The idea of disconnecting has become a romantic illusion we strive for. Martinez illustrates our real natural state: sitting indoors and constantly connected.

His roguish characters are up to their misdeeds, offline and oblivious to the underlying tension in their lives. In a neon-toned, panoramic diptych subterranean city, the border patrol stands over watch, never moving from his post to exert his authority, while hands emerge from the depths of the earth to tell us that it is the time of the witching hour. On a large-scale canvas, a rider on her horse leads an empty army to a battle against no one. In charismatic cult leader, we see a nude cult worshipping a pagan spirit, and in special forces, a soldier driving a tank near a church. An opera singer performs with a full orchestra while the audience watches astounded in the soloist. Three figures go about their business, even as the ground cracks beneath them in law and order. Martinez’s rogues stare blankly at us as they carry out their ‘expected’ duties. He captures the ever-present individual and relational conflicts that call for speculation and examination amid all the man-made chaos.

All of these rapscallions are bound to a higher power, and as much as they try to break away to freely act, they can’t. Trying to determine what or who this higher power is, or even trying to decipher fact from fiction, takes us to a conversation on metaphysical matters beyond our grasp. Martinez recognizes this, but paints reality as he sees it: that it has become a spectacle in itself, full of existential dread, bad faith, and paranoia, as well as acceptance, humor, and suspense. He amplifies the quality of his shocking paintings with his acute awareness of the peculiarities of our technology-obsessed ways. In our continued search for meaning in this information-laden dystopia, Pow Martinez’s Sustainable Anxiety is an invitation to savor these reflections of realities for as long as possible, a temporary escape from this modern age. Yet, as hard as we try to immerse ourselves in these worlds, the heaviness of our own reality continues to linger.

- Isabelle Fabella

Pow Martinez's (b. 1983) paintings belie their grotesque subject matter with the indelibly beautiful surfaces and a wide-ranging, daring use of color. Mutants, monsters, demons, deviants, and freaks lurch, sit, and appear to transform amidst weirdly lit landscapes or disintegrating urban scenarios, or emerge from a painterly graffito mess, but, as his more abstracted works insist, Martinez’s ability to render intriguing relationships between forms and surfaces ensure his works are endlessly compelling—an experience akin to a beautiful nightmare.

Works

Pow Martinez
subterranean city
2020
587
2
oil and acrylic on canvas
70h x 142w in • 177.80h x 360.68w cm (diptych)
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0
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Pow Martinez
the soloist
2020
585
2
oil on canvas
60h x 60w in • 152.40h x 152.40w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
charismatic cult leader
2020
584
2
oil on canvas
57.50h x 55w in • 146.05h x 139.70w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
divine intervention
2020
581
2
oil and acrylic on canvas
57.50h x 55w in • 146.05h x 139.70w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
special forces
2020
580
2
oil on canvas
48.25h x 48w in • 122.56h x 121.92w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
law and order
2020
583
2
oil on canvas
58.50h x 64w in • 148.59h x 162.56w cm
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Pow Martinez
across the border
2020
586
2
oil on canvas
60.50h x 60w in • 153.67h x 152.40w cm
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Pow Martinez
spiritual pursuit
2020
582
2
oil on canvas
36h x 33.25w in • 91.44h x 84.45w cm
1
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0
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Videos

Artist Page

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