“The pen knows where it’s going, and I’ve gotten very good at following.” British artist Shantell Martin has intrigued us for some time now with her black and white line drawings. Based in New York, this talented lady has made a name for herself through her spontaneous, unplanned, stream of consciousness drawings. And her drawings don’t just stop at the page. Shantell’s daily uniform is all white, from her shirt, shorts and down to her Converse shoes, and covered in scribbles from head to toe. She inhabits the world her art is in, and her art inhabits her.
Studying at Central Saint Martin in the UK, Shantell Martin moved abroad after graduating and spent some time working in Japan as an underground performance artist. After five years working in clubs and tiny spaces, she gravitated to the land of opportunity New York, plunging head first into the fine art world. We’ve since seen her rise to stardom with her simple, trademark linework straddling the commercial and fine art worlds like it ain’t no thang.
Shantell works exclusively in black and white. She explains this is to make viewing the work easier and more fluid for the audience. Colour can complicate things, afterall. Using big, fat, markers Shantell Martin draws floating faces, stick men, words and flowing lines to bring it all together to a concoction of storytelling. She will draw on pretty much anything; cars, shoes, bottles, people, clothes, walls and finally, paper. Channelling conversations, objects and places, she is exploring her own identity meditating on lines and characters. We see short phrases repetitively crop up through her work; you are who / who are you / you are you. They’re confused yet empowered, encouraging the viewer to explore themselves and embrace their own individualism and identity. And you know we’re all ‘bout dat.