Marty Baptist’s paintings are wonderfully raw and with a few strokes he conveys such emotional or political stories. He chats to me about his life and work and his love of music that has a strong influence on all of his art. We also visit his Sydney studio…
Hi Marty, and welcome to Om Pom Happy. I love your work! Your paintings portray strong sentiments and, to me the text is such an integral part of your work. It’s like poetry and art feeding each other…
Hi Cand, arrr thank you, yeah I like the use of text as it gives my work another dimension. I grew up looking at record album covers and skateboard graphics so I think that might have something to do with that, as they are both text incorporated.
You say you grew up looking at record sleeves…. your work is so lyrical. I imagine music is a significant influence?
Music is a huge influence, it really gets the juices flowing, like picture words. If I’m painting I’m usually listening to music. At the moment it’s John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and David Bowie.
Did you know David Bowie lived like 500 meters from where I’m living now in Sydney, from 1982-1992 just in Elizabeth Bay. Some friends said they used to see him just walking around the streets. I love the album he did in Berlin called LOW. Sad he’s not around anymore, he left some great music behind. The fact that he just kept changing and no one could pin him down makes him a great artist.
That’s a great bit of history that he lived so close and of course Bowie was such an amazing painter as well as a musician. I do wish I’d seen him play live. But, I did see Neil Young live at the O2 in London this very weekend!!! It was part of his anti-Monsato tour. It’s brilliant that he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. I think these days too many musicians and artists are afraid to voice political opinions for fear of losing fans and contracts, but these are the very people who should protest. They have such a wide audience. It’s great that you show your emotions in your work, some of it political and anti-war…
Well you know, history is written by the victors and when I read that war is needed, I beg to differ.
You are Sydney based. Is this where you grew up?
I grew up in Queensland, between a place called Maroochydore on weekends and Brisbane during the week. My nana and uncle both lived in Sydney so I would come down for holidays as a child. I moved to Sydney in 1998 for skateboarding mostly.
So were you a creative kid?
I guess so, always building stuff, but I think that’s most kids. Just figuring out how stuff works, pulling stuff apart and putting it back together, problem solving, which applies also to making art. My mother was very interested in the arts and painted herself, so I grew up getting taken to the museums and galleries. I did oil painting classes at age 14 or something, but then skateboarding stepped in and that took over my life for a decade. Years later I broke my ankle really bad so couldn’t skateboard for a long time. It was around then I started doing skateboard graphics and working for a few magazines. I was painting again and I moved back to Brisbane to study art for two years at Morningside College of Art.
Did you then go straight into art as a career? Sydney’s such an expensive place to live. It must be tough to survive on an artist’s income, especially for someone just emerging…
Sydney sure can be a tough city to live in, but it has its advantages. I first worked in a few skateboard shops, then for a few skateboard magazines, also as a gardener, maintenance officer, pizza chef, selling shoes, a lot of jobs just to pay for materials and the rent. My first exhibition was in Sydney at Ourspot gallery in 2002. Dion Kovac and Claire Cooper ran a really nice gallery, it was such a great time everything seemed so fresh.
Sydney has such a vibrant art scene. Are studio spaces a nightmare to find?
Studio spaces in the city are getting harder to find. I was lucky to find mine, it’s over in north Sydney, Crows Nest.
Can we see it?
So what’s an average day in the life of Marty Baptist?
I don’t really have an average day. It’s always changing, some are better than others. Today was good – coffee/breakfast, checked emails, then went for a drive over to Cremorne with my girlfriend. We went for a long walk around the harbour and then later I did some drawings. Other days I try and put in more studio time. I don’t like to have a set routine and I like every day to be different from the last.
I don’t think I could do this interview without talking a little more about the S word… SKATEBOARDING! Was it ever a career choice?
Well yes skateboarding is just so great!! It’s a nice feeling just rolling around the streets. It pretty much consumed every part of me for a long time. When you’re skating that much, you don’t think about it as career choice or anything like that. I know it sounds clichéd but it was sort of about freedom. Sure it was nice to get in the magazines and get sponsored when I was young, but to be able to skate around, do tricks anytime/anywhere, sort of broke all the rules that I was used to. And I think that’s the big attraction, you can roll with a big crew or roll solo, it just doesn’t matter. It’s just skateboarding! And it’s all good no matter how you look at it.
Marty, thank you so much for joining us at Om Pom! It’s been great meeting you and I wish you lots of luck with all that you do. You’re a huge music fan – what song are you choosing to sign out with…
I have chosen this song, Baby Stones, by Robert Forster from the band The Go-Betweens. It’s with great relevance – he went my sister’s school and I love the way he writes a song…
You can see more of Marty’s work on his website http://www.martybaptist.com/
words: CAND JUSKUS and MARTY BAPTIST
images: MARTY BAPTIST