When A Physicist Becomes An Artist: Enrique Martinez Celaya

24Nov08

By Emily Waldorf

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Enrique Martinez Celaya in his Santa Monica studio

I had the pleasure of visiting Enrique Martinez Celaya’s pristine Santa Monica studio last April, when he was working on the pieces for his amazing show that opened last week at L.A. Louver in Venice.  Martinez Celaya is not your typical contemporary artist, having trained as a physicist at U.C. Berkeley before abandoning science in favor of a full-time career as an artist, though his work grapples heavily with existential questions stemming from the scientific realm.

He explores daunting existential questions, consciousness, religion, and the fundamental loneliness of living beings, including what it means to be living in exile and feelings of isolation.  Indeed, many of his large-scale paintings depict figures in isolation. Writing is a central part of his artistic practice and he lists philosophy-heavy influences such as Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Herman Melville, Lucian Freud, Paul Celan, and Joseph Beuys.

Martinez Celaya uses non-traditional techniques and materials to create his haunting works, including tar, blood, hair and feathers.  Jori Finkel, in her article, “Layers of Devotion and the Scars to Prove It” in The New York Times, interviewed Martinez Celaya about his work and the meaning behind it.  She writes, “Someone asked me a while back why I paint all of these images of coldness and snow,” he said. “I think that’s the temperature I feel inside. Isolation, solitude and loneliness, I’m always feeling the condition of things — or what you could call the illusion of things — being separate.”

Martinez Celaya’s work is challenging and complex on many levels while remaining accesible because of it’s sheer beauty and figural simplicity.  His work invites soulful meditation and his LA Louver show should not be missed.

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