ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Toronto-based artist Isabel M. Martínez’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, These Things Take Time. The exhibition presents new lens-based works, and opens on Saturday, May 4, with the public reception and artist talk on Saturday, May 11 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The exhibition runs until Saturday, June 1.
“Elemental” aptly describes the lens-based work of Isabel M. Martínez, who cites the visual and emotional impact of American artist Mark Rothko’s paintings as an early inspiration. Martínez, who was born in Santiago de Chile but is now a Canadian citizen, holds a BFA from the Universidad Católica de Chile. “There, we were taught to be ‘renaissance’ artists,” she says. “In the first years, you had to learn everything; it wasn’t until the final year that you could choose what you wanted to do for your thesis.”
Martínez chose photography, although her process is about constructing images rather than taking pictures. Using strictly analog methods, Martínez distills the medium of photography to its key elements: light, time and chemistry. In other words, the materials of photography are made visible. Primary shapes and more complex line drawings are delineated through masking, and are then burnt onto the negative by light that the artist precisely regulates as it enters the camera. The process can take hours depending on the complexity of the form. The glowing shapes float atop infinitely deep voids or fields of rippling texture derived from the artist’s tampering with the film’s emulsion. “I want my work to resonate with people at an almost pre-language level,” she explains. “I’m exploring the idea of ‘images before words’ – like that moment when you’re just waking up. You’re not quite yourself yet and the world is still coming into shape around you.”
Rothko claimed to have been told by people that they’d wept in front of his paintings. To him, this meant that they experienced the same feelings looking at his paintings as he had while making them. Rothko began creating his iconic abstractions in the late-1940s, stating that his interest lay in expressing basic human emotions, such as despair and ecstasy. Indeed, in his later years, Rothko was emphatic about the spiritual aspects of his paintings, a sensibility that found its fullest realization in his masterwork – the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. Some have described viewing the chapel’s paintings as a spiritual encounter, one that transcends self-awareness and prompts contemplation of elemental forms of consciousness.
Martínez’s images cast a similar spell. Her forms appear to vibrate, emitting a silent hum that is mysterious, transfixing and moving. “I think of my work as being situated where the real, the known and the imagined blend,” she says, a fitting description of the place where the transcendent also resides. – Bill Clarke
Images © Isabel M. Martínez, courtesy of the artist