Shantell Martin's work is a meditation of lines; a language of characters, faces and messages that invite her viewers to share a role in her creative process. Her work has been featured on Fast Company, Vogue, The New York Times, and as part of collaborations with Martone Cycling, New York Fashion Week, and Le Petite Prince to name a few. She joins us this April for FITC Toronto 2017.
Your art is very inclusive and open to collaboration - have there been any technologies or mediums you’ve experimented with that haven’t worked with / countered your style? What did you learn from those experiences?
I think everything that I’ve tried, there’s sometime of outcome, so in a way it’s like unless you have a clear expectation of what you want as an output, it’s very hard to say if it’s worked or not. So I think maybe what has happened in some of the outcomes have been kind of surprising or unexpected, or I liked them more than I thought.
Each medium and technology is interesting and is sometimes an initial stage to something else.
Code is always fun, because it’s not something I’m doing it’s usually something collaborative, and that’s always surprising to see the outcome.
You have a recurring collaborative relationship with Zach Leiberman recently developing animations from your art. Do you have plans to use more technology as part of your live performances?
It’s funny the stuff with Zach, we started it a few years ago and we kinda just made the commitment to finish them in 2016, so that was something we started a long time ago. I’m thinking of trying to use some more technology but I also don’t want it to be forced.
But I have a recent collaboration that I’m doing with a PHD scientist at MIT, in where I’m deep learning my drawings, we’re using AI and deep learning so that’s quite interesting.
And then also with my music stuff – I’m starting to do music – so I’m thinking about how to incorporate technology into the light stuff.
“Underlying Martin’s work is a quest for identity” – Are you discovering new facets of yourself with the recent work involving new mediums like black lights, and animation?
You know I think what I am coming to understand when you do try different mediums, crossing over from animation to music to more traditional stuff like darkness, it’s not like you’re discovering more about your identity, you’re realizing that you have a fingerprint or recurring style that comes and can represent itself through different mediums. So that’s always a surprise to me.
When I’m like, oh – I’m doing something completely different that I’ve not done before, but it looks like me, feels like me, and therefore I’m learning that we are ourselves in a way.
Which sounds quite simple but, I think we make the assumptions that we become different people, or that we evolve in different ways when we are actually doing the opposite.
The theme for FITC Toronto in 2017 is Step into the Light - can you tell us what this means to you?
About transparency, it just means about kind of peeling back some of the onion and showing what’s really there, about shining a light on things that we’ve kind of not been aware of or chosen not to feel in the past.
Find out more at
FITC Toronto // The Future of Innovation, Technology & Creativity
Hilton Toronto • April 23-25
Or on her website shantellmartin.com