The Berlin art residence exchange programme is a cultural development initiative organized by Gibraltar Cultural Services on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, together with Lichtenberg Studios. As she returns from the art exchange programme in Berlin, we nab Naomi, the local artist chosen to represent Gibraltar, to ask her what she thought of the experience.

What age did you get into art? What mediums did you start out with?

Naomi Martinez

For as long as I can remember, I can’t recall a time where I haven’t seen the world with the desire to create something new. Fom a very tender age I’ve looked at things carefully and been sensitive to details more deeply than just looking at the surface of things.
I was coloring and watching films from the age of 4 and won some school art awards. In my teens during my GCSE’s and A-Level art classes I started using acrylics. I made large boisterous paintings in full vibrant surreal hues with flicks of paint and dramatic high and lowlight effects. These were done with my fingers as I just wanted to stick my hand into wet paint and play. It was fun; the smudging, the mess, the sensory experience. I suppose I was experimenting and exploring paint as a new tool for discovery and self-expression.

Who/what inspires you most, and why?

Many things inspire me. One thing that intrigues me is seeking to understand not only the mechanism of sight but the limits and possibilities of individual perception. The light and space movement of the 60s and 70s. Artists such as Larry Bell, Richard Serra, Olafur Eliasson, Ann Veronica Jassens, James Turrell, Bruce Nauman. All investigating light, space, distance and colour. Bringing art into nature. Being concerned with how geometric shapes and how the use of light could affect the environment and perception of the viewer.

Have you won any prizes or been involved in any projects locally before this one?

In 2006 I was given the Young Painter of the Year (Highly Commended) award. I came away with a ‘Highly Commended’ for the Gibraltar Spring Festival 2007, and the following year, ‘Best Work by a Young Artist’.

You were recently selected to represent Gibraltar at the Berlin artist residency. How did you find the experience?

In Lichtenberg I noticed this element of something being incomplete, not fully finished. Like a job half done. But I couldn’t quite place my finger on what it was. I then became more aware about the history between the East and the West, just how recent the wall had come down. Loads of construction sites had insulation leftovers on the side of the buildings. This inspired me to play on the idea of INSIDE OUT: How something that is meant to be inside of a building could be extracted from its ‘normal original’ setting and adapt to another surrounding. That’s when I started experimenting with expanding foam; a material that changes from soft to hard. I used a whole can and got ten different sized sculptures. They partly remind me of body shapes, partly of more random, chaotic natural forms. I spray painted them a vivid cadmium yellow, just like the colour on most street signs, road markings, and bins in Berlin. I wanted to make more but on a bigger scale, playing with sizes up to my height. The cans weren’t that cheap so I decided to buy a more erect moldable material – chicken wire: light and easy to move. I temporarily placed the works on the streets, in parks and metro stations, and in front of several buildings in Lichtenberg in different scenarios and situations, relating to architecture and the urban environment. Using such transferable material made it easy to move around the district also with the idea in mind of bringing some of the works back with me to Gibraltar for the exhibition, in which I would like people to move them within the space just like I did in Lichtenberg. I personally think they are quite nice and intriguing to hold.

What are your plans now that you’re back in Gibraltar?

I am looking for a full-time job to support my artistic practice as well as helping others seek compassion towards meaningful work full of adventure and well-being.
You have mentioned campaigning for revamping abandoned buildings into artist studios.

Could you tell us more about how you think Gibraltar could go about this, and the benefits it would bring?

Yes I am extremely keen on Gibraltar having a space to create the conditions in which art can be made, experienced and appreciated by everyone. I want people to realise how investing in this with the idea of a lasting return is key. Kitchen is an example of a group of local artists currently affect by this. We need to draft up something that we can all sign, and ask for a meeting ASAP, to be added to the list of empty premises. There is no reason, with all the empty buildings there are in Gibraltar that one couldn’t be adapted for open artist studios. I want to get this petition going amongst artists and artist groups and form a focus group to deal solely with the issue of developing artist studios in Gib before taking it to the Minister.

I want to keep a public momentum in the press also until my exhibition come October. Now that I’m back from Berlin I have more time on my hands to move around and get this going, but I need all the help and support I can get! If we all rally together we can make a big difference to our community and its art culture.

To keep up to date with Naomi, find her on Instagram: @i____moan