Elephants with blue scales and pipe-like trunks, a woman sporting an enormous bouffant filled with birds, and a farmer grasping a tree with roots evocative of veins or intestines are just a few of the otherworldly characters that populate Martin Jarrie’s illustrations.
The French artist is drawn to mutations and curious scenarios, skewing bodily proportions or melding two creatures into strange hybrids. “What interests me most is giving birth to imaginary beings, animals or humans, under my pencil or my brush,” he shares. “I was very marked in my adolescence and youth by the discovery of surrealism, from Giorgio de Chirico to Magritte via Marcel Duchamp.”
Whether working on a commission or a personal project, Jarrie begins with a minimal sketch before choosing a substrate—paper, canvas, or sometimes wooden produce crates—for his acrylic works. “I never paint on a white background, but it is always already smeared with paint (remnants of palette, bottoms of tubes, etc…),” he notes, which is also evident in the streaks and blotches lining the perimeters of his works.
But sometimes an initial drawing doesn’t translate to a larger illustration. Jarrie has amassed a collection of sketchbooks from the past three decades, which he references when he needs inspiration. He explains:
There are a lot of failures, unfinished drawings… When I get stuck, I consult them and sometimes find solutions in drawings that I found unsatisfactory but which suddenly open up new avenues for me. And then always in case of blockage… I leaf through the books in my library, art books, exhibition catalogs, books on nature, animals, sky charts, old sea charts, etc…
The resulting works are filled with unexpected oddities and textured details, which the artist describes as direct translations of an idea or thought into “a sensation…The pleasure of drawing is to let yourself be surprised,” he says. “Something escapes.”
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