50MM 50CM

Sebastià Martí

Barcelona, 2017

A collaborative project with my friend Astrid Torra (designer and photographer). A collection of photographs from my sketchbooks that is not only satisfied with capturing the notebooks, but we could say that it transcends them. It was exhibited at the Visions Gallery, in the Gràcia neighbourhood.

It all started with some notebooks. At first, this exhibition was going to be a retrospective look at Sebastià Martí’s sketchbooks. Fifteen years of landscapes, portraits, sex, fantastic worlds and private hells. However, setting up an exhibition of these characteristics presents many difficulties, especially in the case of a small gallery. Sketchbooks – those notebooks that illustrators always carry around with them so that inspiration does not catch them off guard – seem designed precisely to not be shown. They are personal, intimate objects, something like an illustrator’s diary. Their natural state is that of being closed: they are only opened to draw on them and for the subsequent enjoyment of the author or, at most, those closest around him. And in order to take them in, it is necessary to go through each of its pages with your hand (that is, by touch).

The obvious way to overcome these obstacles is to resort to photographs. And this is where Astrid Torra comes into the picture and where the project reinvents itself. The two come together and think: instead of doing the obvious, a photographic record of a series of illustrations, in other words, instead of putting photography at the service of the illustration, we are going to create something new where the forces are compensated. Yes, photographs from sketchbooks, but playing with the meaning of the illustrations through staging.

50mm by 50cm is the result of this experiment. As the title indicates, it is a collaboration in equal parts, 50-50 must be understood as an average: photography and illustration share the spotlight in a percentage that instantly oscs the other.

Each piece is the result of individualized brainstorming. This modus operandi has some creative agency, a terrain both know very well. The starting point is a minimal briefing, with only one requirement – an open notebook – and from here it consists of looking for an element in the illustration that lights the spark, that inspires a stimulating idea, either on the visual semantic level (or both).

It only takes a quick look around the room to get an idea of the level of creative promiscuity achieved. Each work defines its own objective, inspired by illustration. Sometimes, the staging reinforces the meaning of the illustration, extends it beyond the notebook, provides it with a real cover. In others, he seeks contradiction, whether it be with humorous or nostalgic effects. Sometimes the associations are less obvious and invite reflection. Sometimes they are purely formal. There is room for visual poetry, graphic humor and the fan art.

Likewise, each work of art establishes its own aesthetic. In this sense, the display of styles and techniques is inexhaustible. The art direction draws on resources that range from handcraft to figure modeling, including illustration (digital and on paper), watercolors, human models and all kinds of props and locations.

Finally, how must we interpret this exhibition? The hybrid character of the pieces has a curious effect. Ultimately, what we have is a series of artistic photographs, analysable under the corresponding parameters, but all of them contain an object – the sketchbook illustration – that belongs to a different aesthetic category, with its own repertoire of codes, conventions and specifications that can be evaluated independently. And then, of course, we have the interaction between the two disciplines, i.e, the idea that connects illustration within photography. The way to consider each of these three elements (photography, illustration, idea) depends on personal criteria. However, we can presume with little margin of error, given the enormous variety of illustration styles, staging and types of ideas, that there is at least one work of art waiting for each visitor, from the thirty-four works of art on display.