At the Paint & Beer event in Amsterdam last week, we had the honor to meet up with the talented Martin Squires from London. Besides the fact he’s a great fella, we were intrigued by his works existing out of oil paint, ink, spray paint or a combination of. Not limiting himself, he can get along with all kinds of mediums. Martin was kind enough to lend us two of his artworks, which will be on display for a month in Canvas, Amsterdam! (more details on that later on). Seeing I was quite hammered at Paint & Beer, we thought we’d leave the Q&A for the e-mails.
So when did you discover/realized that you have talent?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing since I could pick up a pencil. My parents always encouraged me and I loved copying comics and pictures of other strange stuff. I’d spend the majority of my time with some sort of drawing implement in my hand. Whether that means I’ve got talent is another matter.
How did you enjoy Paint & Beer in Amsterdam?
I enjoyed myself very much. It was great fun meeting people from all round Europe and watching the different processes people use to make their work. I’m very interested in the process of making work; what decisions you make along the way and which direction they take you in. I really enjoyed watching Snub and Ashab23 working for this reason. They have a real freedom due to the way they work, they have the space to change their work as they are doing it and work with happy accidents. This is one of the things I enjoy about painting and want to push this aspect within my own work: The ability to work with and take advantage of incidents that happen when you are working on a piece shows true creativity.
Why was it that you started to do street art work?
I’ve always been inspired by graffiti since I picked up Subway Art when I was about 12 from then on I proceeded to collect graph mags whenever I saw them. I have dipped in and out of Graph and Street art as an influence ever since. Paint and Beer has been the first time I have done a large scale piece like that in about 10 years. From working with spray cans and stencils again during Paint and Beer I’ll definitely be using them more. I don’t want to get tied down to working purely with stencils though I’d prefer to use them as an additional tool rather than a means to an end.
Who or what inspires you?
Art wise I have always been inspired by European comic artists such as Simon Bisley and Kevin O’Neil in 2000AD to artists such as Moebius, Sergio Toppi, Milo Manara and Juan Gimenez. Once I discovered the European comics I immediately fell in love with them. The quality of the artwork within European comics is so much higher than the Marvel and DC trash. There is a lot more variation between artists styles and their technical ability is incredible. When I watch someone like Moebius or Manara draw on You Tube (straight to ink!) my jaw just hits the floor.
I’m also heavily influenced by music as you can see from my various portraits. My wife Rowena and I collect old 78 rpm records, especially old jazz and blues. I love the look of old photography and film. Anything with a sense of history and imperfection has always attracted me. I’m also interested in the history of music; how one style of music changes to create another. As well as old scratchy records I listen to a wide variety of music, one of the artists I’m constantly returning to is Frank Zappa. There is so much stuff going on his music I can never get bored. If you haven’t already I’d highly recommend watching his movie Baby Snakes; it has everything, music, animation and the tightest band I’ve ever heard. Captain Beefheart is also a heavy part of my musical diet. The fact that he has pushed blues music until it became something totally different is really something to aspire to.
Other than that give me some kind of fish, rice and an old samurai movie and I’m happy.
You use oil, ink, spray paint, are there any of those you like the most?
I am currently most comfortable with ink, you get really good transparency with ink, and I love building up layers with it, plus it dries fast so you can do stuff pretty quick. I also like using dip pens you can get some really nice lines with them. Having said that after getting back to using spray paint over the last month I’ve been reminded of its advantages. I don’t want to tie myself to a certain medium though as they all have their benefits depending on what you are trying to achieve. As long as I can get my hands dirty I’ll use anything.
We read that you were planning to do a series on the history of Black Metal, starting with Bathory. What inspired you to do that and how is it coming along?
This series is still in progress I am however working on a blues series in parallel, both these series are more like exercises in observation as they are based on photographs. They really are helping me loosen up. I became concerned about how tight and controlled I became over the last year so I’m trying to get a bit more expressive with what I’m doing. Allowing stuff to happen, rather than trying to stick with a closely formulated plan is much more fun. As you can see from my Flickr page the Blues section is further ahead but I have been doing that over a longer period. Both these series are ongoing but I can see the Blues one lasting longer than the black metal one. There is only so many times you can paint someone with black and white makeup on their face.
Next to that you also have an amazing piece of John Fahey (RIP), why him?
This portrait is part of the blues series as well as old masters such as Son House I also want to include people such as Fahey in the series as I’m also interested in how music develops and mutates . Besides that John Fahey is a legend both in his music and writing if you haven’t read his book of short stories How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life I strongly advise you do. Also the photo it was based on has great light values, which always helps.
If you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would that be?
Ginger Beer, but it might sting a bit.
Are you working towards a specific goal with your artwork?
Just to have fun, work with and meet as many people as possible and push myself to do different and challenging things. I’ve tried to stick to plans in the past and I’ve found that it isn’t any fun because you start to restrict yourself and you end up doing the same thing over and over again. Plus if you don’t enjoy yourself what’s the point in doing it?
What can we expect from you in the future?
In the near future I’m of course involved in the CFYE exhibition in November. Beyond that I plan to get involved in as many exhibitions and events as possible, I find having something to work towards a great motivator. I’m in the process of finalising an illustrated version of a Don Van Vliet poem “Apes Ma” which is currently planned to be a limited edition book or a series of prints (or maybe both).
I’m also currently putting together a screen print setup so I can do limited runs of art prints for other artist’s as well as myself, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I start using it within my artwork as well. The idea of mixing different processes and using the strong points of each one is a very important thing for me.