The most fascinating thing about memories is that they have a life of their own. They’re shaped and revised according to our experience, our perceptions; through the use of memory children learn how to speak and adults form identities as individuals, developing their own sense of place in relation to their immediate surroundings, as well as the world at large. It is this sculpting of fragmentary experience, in the form of memory, we find the themes by which we can explore the artwork of Nadia Martynovich.
In Martynovich’s work, we find these parallels flitting beautifully back and forth: memory, thought, perception, place and being. More accurately, we see the appearance of things in different stages of development, whether it be a moment on the bus or rolling out of bed (Fragmentos de Imagenes, 2008); a first trip to the beach (La presencia de una austencia, 2009); or a living nightmare (Catálogo de los perversos, 2002); El último recuerdo de la raza humana, 2010). Martynovich enjoys toying with our perceptions and the intercourse forced to the surface when we observe object, tradition, construction and ruin, simultaneously. She isn’t satisfied with simply creating an accurate reproduction of what’s in front of her, isn’t interested in painting a dull portrait, but one of someone who disappears before her eyes (Tedio 2011/2013), of buildings in the process of being built, or perhaps torn down. It’s often hard to determine, but in each case we’re given a look at their insides, the colors and lines intersecting to play amidst the light (Des-construcción nostálgica 2012/2013). The wood canvases works appear upon add another dimension altogether, give the work an additional legitimacy, intensifying the sense we have of something being built or torn down.
Martynovich’s oeuvre deals heavily with her sense of place, although one should hesitate to identify her alongside artists heavily influenced by Argentine identity. Instead, she’s simply creating artwork influenced by her surroundings, which happen to be the neighborhood of Floresta and the greater city of Buenos Aires at large. If she lived elsewhere, we’d undoubtedly see the location’s presence in her creations. However, one is often struck by a distinct sense of place created by her works: they seem to create their own little worlds that appear somewhat familiar, yet there’s always something slightly off. Much like a dream one remembers that at first glance seems commonplace, until they realize that all of the walls were misshapen and grotesque.
And now we arrive at these new works of Martynovich, aptly titled Las cosas que nunca existieron, a series of graphite and watercolor that seem in some ways a continuation of her previous drawings, but are, upon closer inspection, greatly different. We find that although they echo some of her earlier works in style and color, the subject matter and intent is changed entirely. Here we have a series of scenes: some are familiar, others strange and disorienting, but all involve people in some way, shape or form. However, these are clearly scenes from history, from a time long past. The characters that inhabit the spaces within these drawings lack features and seem to recede into the background, or present themselves at the most unexpected moments, much like history itself.
In Las cosas que nunca existieron we are presented with a striking balance where each object present is just as important as the one that was left out. It hardly matters whether this show of restraint is a conscious choice of Martynovich’s or something much more intuitive, what’s important is the effect it has upon us as an audience in creating a strange, resonant sense of movement; an ample opportunity to fill in the space using our own minds, to take her work one step further and fully engage with it. Las cosas que nunca existieron, like all of Martinovych’s best works, elicits a sense of immediacy and urgency that enables it to appear in front of us as if alive, as if begging us to hurry up and look at it before it changes quickly into something else.