Ilyana Martínez is a Mexican-Canadian artist, designer and illustrator living in Toronto. She studied art at OCAD University and has a design degree from NSCAD University. She has received awards from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, and the Pollock–Krasner Foundation in New York. Martínez has attended art residencies in Canada, Mexico, Serbia and Croatia. Her works on paper are inspired by nature and cities. She illustrates children’s books with a humorous visual language, and makes drawings, sculptures, murals and installations with her collaborators, Z’otz* Collective.
"The contrast and juxtaposition of the urban and natural worlds is the focus of my work. As a city dweller, I am drawn to urban spaces, but also to the uninhabited ones that are full of mystery and wonder. The natural realm is alive with endless growth, sprouting seeds, clinging roots, plants, and dirt. The built environment of the city is a concrete one, with structures, wires, grids, networks.
The blank page leads me to explore these realms, to make vague ideas tangible, planting them in a context and nurturing them with brush, watercolour and ink. Foundations are laid and elements built up, one upon the other to create illusory communities. The urban and the natural fuse together at times sustaining one another, but growth and decay have an equal hand. The work communicates a concern about our tenuous relationship with the environment.
In the paintings, organic and constructed shapes emerge and dwell beside and within one another to form imagined spaces, where budding cities hinge as fragile structures. Minute networks cluster and attach themselves to plants, while populations scatter among rivers of invented maps. Nature refuses to die, and the built world comes alive, as one fuses with the other. While walking in the city, its parks and ravines, I observe and collect sensations from the spaces around me. These encounters with the environment appear in the shapes and lines of paintings that are intuitively created. Simple forms of seeds and rocks fascinate me with their microcosmic worlds, while the complexity of urban life draws me to imagine alternate possibilities. The paintings are remnants of a dialogue with my surroundings.
Creating these places is like charting a voyage to make the imaginary a reality. The works are maps that echo the importance of drawing as an artistic and personal language and express my love of making marks." - I.M.