“The city where it is weird to not be weird.” Artist of the Week: Alberto Martinez
This week, surrealist painter, Alberto Martinez examined his artistic journey from Cuba to Brighton, a place now a great source of inspiration for his work.
It is no secret Brighton and Hove is a recognised cultural hub, expanding the imaginations of many artists along the way (Turner, Banksy). Oil painter, Alberto Martinez recognises the city as a creative stimulus: “I find myself looking at places and buildings as if I’m seeing them for the first time.”
Alberto was born in Cuba as the youngest of four siblings and grew up in a very small village immersed in sugar cane plantations and farming. Although agricultural work was the natural career move in his village, art captured his attention at a young age.
Some of his first memories of his art included drawing the passing steam engines with trucks full of sugar cane very near to his house. Alberto’s love of sketching and drawing evolved, and in 1993, he received a place to study sculpture at the Fine Arts Academy ‘Oscar Fernandez Morera’ in Trinidad.
“There’s little infrastructure for starting artists plus the distortion created by the art market.”
In discussing what attracted him to painting, now his preferred medium, he said: “The colours. I originally trained as a sculptor but I really loved how I could create colourful mad worlds on canvases.” Alberto’s main source of inspiration is the Surrealism in Salvador Dali’s work, but his inclusion of Pop Art elements make his paintings unique.
In 2006, Alberto moved to Brighton, which has grown to be the main source of inspiration for his paintings. He was attracted to the “multicultural vibe of the city where it is weird to not be weird”. The city’s unrivalled inclusive spaces are celebrated in Alberto’s artwork today.
“I could create colourful, mad worlds on canvases.”
Alberto’s surrealist paintings of Brighton normally use oils to create an outstanding vibrant portrayal of some familiar areas of the city: “It’s all about the intensity I love from oils that I can’t get from other mediums.”
On his website, he asks: “Isn’t Brighton itself surrealist enough?” However, Alberto has taken Brighton and surrealism to new heights by cleverly adapting our streets and scenery into chaotic portraits of Brighton.
As well as the multiculturalism and the vibrancy of Brighton and Hove, Alberto loves meeting new people and going to the cinema when he is not drawing or painting. He spoke fondly of his favourite place in the city is simply “sitting on the beach with a drink as the sun goes to sleep”.
Although, it’s the process of painting keeping Alberto devoted to the medium: “From the original idea through the drawings and concluding with painting them takes weeks, sometimes months which is very satisfying. A marathon, metaphorically speaking.”
When asked about the biggest challenges to artists in today’s climate, Alberto said the Art Market added pressure on creatives: “There’s little infrastructure for starting artists plus the distortion created by the art market.” Last month, after a Banksy piece was auctioned at £1m, it immediately self-destructed, sent a hard-hitting message about commercialism to the art world.
The above painting by Alberto, I Spy, presents this notion of opulence, in which materialism can often be a threat to creativity in society. Alberto’s metaphor merging of our society with consumerism presents an opulent lifestyle as idealistic, but within a fantasy realm.
Alberto’s paintings are available to view in his studio at his home, in Cafe Coho, and Drake’s Hotel on the seafront. Visit his website for a closer look at his portfolio.