Interested in painting from a young age, American artist Eddie Martinez never completed any formal art education, starting and leaving two different art schools in Boston. He is largely self-taught, and his working style and choice of subject matter was influenced by the urban culture and iconography he grew up surrounded by.
Martinez is recognised for his bold line and handling of colour. Even without the benefit of a formal art education, he has managed to develop a mature style, drawing from well-established classical conventions of portraiture, still life and allegorical narratives, filtering it all through coarse brushwork. His gestural blocks of colour and strong lines recall the concerns and forms of semi-abstraction, yet they contain distinct figurative elements and a sense of personal iconography. He combines oil, enamel, acrylic and spray paint with marker, pencil and collage (usually on canvas) to create a variety of textural and colour contrasts—aggressive and full of energy.
Late critic Glenn O'Brien described Martinez’s work as being all ‘about colour and what it means’, and this sentiment can be seen in his Mandala #4 (Open Night) (2016)—where bold colours and shapes jostle with each another as though fighting to remain in formation—and in Lip Service (2015), where bright forms emerge sparingly from the heavily textured background. These textured scribbles and slashes of white on white seem to hint at other colours lurking beneath the surface or about to be liberated from the canvas. Delicate strokes of pencil highlight the thickness of the paint and hint at hidden depths.
Martinez has referred to his process as that of boxing: approaching the canvas like his opponent, stepping forward to make contact with the canvas and then stepping back to regroup before he connects again. Making sketches in spray paint, adding lines and blocks and colours, he works rapidly: a demonstration of the anxiety he harnesses for his creativity. The speed and the aggression with which he seems to attack each painting is seen in every brushmark and brings to the surface a material coarseness. He has constructed a bridge between the aesthetic and cultural appeal of street art and the concepts and dialect of art history.