Q&A with Martin Rayment

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Martin Rayment combines vintage found imagery, detailed pen-and-ink work and collage techniques to produce prints that have a surreal, science-fiction feel but are ultimately difficult to categorise. He cites Magritte and J.G. Ballard as influences. Determined to make his living from his artworks, Martin has plans to produce a tee-shirt range and will be exhibiting work to the public for the first time at the Lady Bay Arts Festival in Nottingham over May 14 and 15.  

BACKLIT: How would you describe your art?

MR: I collect found imagery and then re-use it to create worlds and characters involving intricate and detailed drawing. The detail is quite important but I also like to have an emotional energy in the imagery itself.

BACKLIT: Looking around your studio at the books and imagery I can see that that your Influences include 1950s glamour models, Arnold Schwarzenegger, science fiction and classic thriller movies. Were you brought up with this stuff?

MR: My dad always had a strange collection of books. He had Rene Magritte and Hieronymus Bosch books lying around the house and I started reading them. The unique otherworldly aspects that they created hooked me. Until this discovery I’d thought of art as merely decoration. Then I was at the point where I was at school and I was either going to specialise in drama or art. My mother encouraged me to look through this Magritte book and think about what the images were trying to say and that was a crucial point. I later went to Nottingham Trent to study Fine Art.

BACKLIT: Is it science fiction books or films you like most?

MR: I’ve always liked the sci-fi feel. It’s got a similar feel to the pin-up stuff because it references real life but it’s also otherworldly. JG Ballard – I love his style of writing. I was switched onto him by a tutor at university. I started making geometric shapes and began to let them flourish beside collaged images after reading Ballard’s descriptions in The Crystal World. In the book the crystals expanded over the whole earth and I re-enacted this in my work. I like how the story ends, in a blissful annihilation, where everything reverts back to a carbon state.

BACKLIT: I don’t think all of your work is meant to be taken that seriously, but how do people react to it?

MR: I get the impression from some people that they feel it’s quite sinister.

BACKLIT: Do you court that reaction?

MR: No. The ‘sinisterness’ is probably a reaction to the way that I’ve recently started to make my work less specific. If people don’t see an obvious narrative, they assume its dark. With the pin-up stuff some people just see titillating imagery but I’m much more interested in their body shapes. I use the pin-ups because they have really nice flowing theatrical shapes. I will often dissect those images and create new works from them.

BACKLIT: Do you create your artworks on a screen first?

MR: No. I go through my ‘bank’ – my books – find a part of an image I like, dissect it and dump it onto a big white space and start working around it there and then.

BACKLIT: They’re quite labour intensive. One of your large prints, The Crystal World, took four months and has a very detailed background of thousands of small dots in patterns…

MR: I usually call it ‘sludge.’ In that particular one the pattern is more like a skyline, or bubbly smoke. I used pen and ink. Within the pattern there are little conversations happening.

BACKLIT: One striking aspect about you is that you seem all set up to make a living from this. You make your artworks as prints, you’ve got them framed and you have a glossy website. Is this how you want to earn a living?

MR: Absolutely, yes, That’s what I’m going to do. A year ago I started a full time job and it wasn’t very satisfying. It seemed pointless so I made a decision and said I would make art and sooner or later it would happen for me. And even if it doesn’t I’m happy to carry on as I am because I’m doing it for myself first.

BACKLIT: So how are going to sell your prints?

MR: Coming to Backlit has been really good for me in that respect. When I first came here I was sharing a space with an artist who was at the same stage I am now. He was commercialising his work, putting it on tee-shirts and selling his original drawings for hundreds of pounds. He was commercialising his work but also keeping his integrity. I learned a lot from that and I’m using that same formula really. So I’ve had a meeting with The HIVE at NTU about selling my tee-shirts online and I’m showing my latest works at Lady Bay Arts Festival. I’m intrigued by what they’ll make of them.

Note: Lady Bay Arts Festival this year will also include work by two other Backlit artists, Lois Gardner Sabet and Val Turton.

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