Filipino artist Pow Martinez is known for his satirical paintings and grotesque portraits that comment on the medium of painting, influencer culture, and Philippine history.Read More
Martinez was born in Manila, the Philippines. He studied Visual Communication at the University of the Philippines and Painting at Kalayaan College.
Martinez is a recipient of the 2010 Ateneo Art Awards and has been widely exhibited both locally and internationally. In 2019, his work was included in Palais de Tokyo's group exhibition City Prince/sses, where the artist painted a large-scale mural in the stairwell of the museum.
Separate from his painting practice, the artist also produces experimental music under the name Sewage Worker, and in 2021 released his first album, entitled VOL.1.
Martinez's paintings often play with colour and form. The subjects of his work are cartoonish figures with exaggerated features and sometimes disfigured faces. Rejecting academic notions of painting and anatomy, Martinez's style involves the 'amateur' rendering of mutant, demon, and camouflaged characters, foregrounding apocalyptic scenes composed of explosions of colour.
In his City Prince/sses commission, Border Patrol (2019), Martinez depicts burning churches overturned by half-naked bodies wielding spears. The work, while containing layers of detail, is also painted in an 'unskilled' manner, as its figures take the form of caricatures, with exaggerated limbs and body parts.
Martinez takes cues from Instagram compositions in constructing his own paintings. In a 2021 interview with Ocula Magazine, he says: 'To me, Instagram posts are a full, correct, and perfect composition.'
Apart from the compositions of online posts, Martinez has also taken inspiration from famous influencers for the subject matter of his work, creating subtle critiques around the phenomenon of publicly ostentatious lifestyles and consumerism. In Explorers (2018), he depicts a group of people sitting around a pool with palm trees in the background, referencing scenes typical of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Spiritual pursuit (2020), on the other hand, features a practically nude woman only wearing a wide-brimmed hat, shades, a pearl necklace, and heeled boots walking her two white and wiry dogs amidst a garden backdrop.
Martinez's work often takes a satirical tone, injecting sharp yet crude elements into his paintings such as the depiction of faeces, bottles of alcohol, and plates of worms. In subterranean city (2020), a figure sits naked on an armchair, sipping on a goblet as hands reach out from beneath the lava-coloured ground and a guard stands watch.
With this voice, Martinez has used his artwork to comment on Philippine history and its construction. Much of his work involves bodies wielding spears, aggressively lighting structures on fire, or appearing defensive, somewhat in a nod to notions of a 'savage' precolonial past.
His work also references Philippine art history, with Divine Intervention (2020) featuring a nude figure on a video call with God, while paintings of idyllic scenes of the Philippine countryside decorate the walls of the surrounding house.
The artist's work has been included in group exhibitions at Fries Museum, Berlin; International Museum of Modest Arts, Sète, France; Metropolitan Museum of Manila; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and Pintô International, New York.
Pow Martinez's Instagram account can be found here.
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2021