A church on fire, soldiers with armalites, men hanging upside down from tree branches, a bombshell on a white horse. An uprising is in the works and it’s starring the characters of Pow Martinez. The artist’s murals are currently on the walls of a staircase—from Level 1 to 2—of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Because, really, where else? It is “the largest center for contemporary artistic creation in all of Europe.” It is “the anti-museum.” It is “a rebellious wasteland.”
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The unique exhibition space at 13, avenue du Président Wilson is currently host to a show/artistic exercise called City Prince/esses where Martinez “has been invited to produce a huge mural presenting a synthesis of several of his canvases with grotesque figures.” Martinez is among 50 artists from different parts of the world (including our very own Dina Gadia and Dex Fernandez).
The Palais-wide show cultivates inspiration from the chaos of mega cities and the imagined progress and illusory transformation these urban spaces go through, brought on by the frenzy of the non-stop hustle its citizens perform everyday. “The artists who emerge from them are thus the strollers of the 21st century, hackers of our answers to an urban milieu which is often too functional and standardised,” said the curators on the show’s press kit. In translation, the artists were encouraged to let their imaginings run wild.
Martinez’s murals occupy the expanse that constitutes 50 steps of the staircase—with a landing in the middle. “I approached the work like I do my paintings,” Martinez tells ANCX. “At first, I wanted to make like a flash tattoo style of images of my works with lots of white spaces. I found it too clean and boring like coffee shop wall art. So I ended up making it like my paintings, messy and rough.”
The result is vintage Pow, replete with his humor, his deviant characters against otherwise painterly backdrops. The physical demands of the work was the greater challenge for the 36-year-old artist. He had been sent a floor plan and video of the stairs, and he prepared a few sketches before leaving Manila. But seeing the actual space was overwhelming. “It was hard at first because I’m not used to painting on walls in this scale.”
The process took a full two weeks to complete, including editing, covering up of areas he was not happy with. There was barely time to see Paris. “We went to the Pompidou [he was with his girlfriend] and some touristy areas etcetera, quick browse lang just to see Paris but most of it is work,” Martinez recalls. “The work was hard but satisfying in the end.”
City Prince/sses will be ongoing at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris until the 8th of September.