Mòyósóré explains, “There is no such thing as marking time; time marks you. Like everything has happened before, in a loop, and when fulfilled, you hit replay and do it again. So everything you wish for, everything you want, is right in front of you.”
Mòyó says often he repeatedly finds himself in situations where he feels as though he has been there before in that exact place, in that exact moment.
There is a vibration that some people recognize — a parallel interference as they blip out of participation in the place they may be. Like you are on one radio station listening to your music, and somehow perceive a transmitter nearby, and in another room, others are simultaneously accessing an entirely different situation and experience. Time runs parallel, and you cannot move over to the other line of time, but fragments, cognition, and comfort bring you to another, different situation and state. A fluttering of recognition flashes and you arrive in a place again, like an old shoe you put on a hundred times and have walked many miles in. It’s the kind of feeling that comes through you, not to you.
A straightforward way to explain this “knowing” is to ask how many fingers you have on one hand? The standard response would be “Five.” But how do you know “Five is five?” —because you do. It is that innate certainty so simple, yet so complex that escorts us on our journey.
The setting sun, and the rising moon in Lagos, Nigeria, delivered intense dreams to Moyo Martins as a boy. These dreams were, at moments, overwhelming and would free themselves in his sketches and drawings.
His talent developed, as did his sensitivity to feeling familiarity in his surroundings like he had been there before. A type of Nostalgia, in his language, he calls it IRANTE– Nostalgia. Which is the name of his first show in Los Angeles at the Path Gallery, in Westwood Village, opening September 18th.
Moyo landed in New York City after a seventeen-hour flight seven years ago with a backpack and a couple of jeans. But, undoubtedly, he brought along the essential thing anyone should take wherever you go; A good mood!
Soon after he arrived, he met his wife, Joanna. She knew that painting is what he should be doing and supported his career wholeheartedly and encouraged him to paint. They started a family, and when Joanna was pregnant with their second son, Moyo took a job working as a graphic designer. (So, this part of the story I like.) He did not know when he took the job; he would be working with a group of very seasoned art professionals, Asher and Michelle Edelman. So, he would come to work, do his job, and not mention he could also paint and sculpt. One day, Michelle Edelman, who owns Traffic Arts, a company which represents artists, got word that Moyo also painted. She was curious and she and her husband, Asher, took a trip to see his work for themselves. So, right under their noses, working quietly was this outstanding talent. They loved the art and Michelle began to work with him. It is like a real-life inspirational movie, and she put together a show for him in New York. For Moyo, it was like a dream come true.
One afternoon, I took a trip to his studio with my mother and met Moyo, his wife, Joanna, and two adorable boys, Zee and Poe. His home is bright and happy. He is an avid collector of Kaws and other artist figures, and they are lined up neatly and organized on shelves and tables. And on the floor, big happy-flowered Murakami pillows look up at you smiling. So, his living room and wardrobe look like a Kith Store or Dover Street Market.
His situation is a whole vibe. His creativity is everywhere. He utilizes every inch of space in this studio, filled with vivid blues, pottery, sculptures, and even plates he has decorated, which look like ancient Greek relics. He paints pedestals and reupholsters chairs and couches.
Moyo unrolled “Erin Ayo,” slowly revealing a woman sitting in front of a grill. It made me tear up. I noticed the thick green blades of grass sweeping across her shin, smiling as she wipes the heat from her skin. Something in the eyes as she observes something happening nearby just drifted me there. It was a compelling experience and just one of the reasons I love my job as much as I do.
His earlier works tend to contain dark jewel tones and are very grounding. One piece of his titled “Glory” is highly compelling. The subject appears to be kneeling on the ground, and you can almost feel the physical body being pulled away into the wind and evaporating. Seeing Moyo’s style evolve, one can recognize how unquestionably, Culture drives art.
As he has adapted to being here in the US, some of his newer works have evolved as well, there are more blues, collage and subjects are perhaps exploring where they are, He did two canvases I love. One in Private collection named “Bad Friends” and one named “Good friends.” which will be shown for the first time at The Path show. They are really fun to look at and you sense his self reliance and acclamation discovering his own path as he has made a new life.
Michelle Edelman puts it perfectly- He is creating and doing the work and finding his path and his path is naturally unfolding in front of him.
DP- Your canvases create a distinct density of a mood on a canvas; how do you do that?
MM- When I get a canvas, I let it sit still. I get a message, and that’s just the honest truth, you know? I believe all canvases have their messages. So, and I see these canvases like an open portal. Sometimes, in the middle of working on those canvases, I take breaks and re-assess the message again. Then I come back again; it’s just the message.
DP- That makes a lot of sense because there’s a total commitment to the canvas and the work that is being perceived at least by me, you know, there’s this, this dense commitment, and the message you’re trying to give varies. But at the same time, what is the common thread?
MM- So the common thread is I was asking questions, like why? So most of my pieces, you will find encrypted messages, and symbols And mostly, they’re always asking questions. Like “Why?” I’m very, very curious. A part of me feels like I’ve been here before, which makes me ask many questions, but mostly Why?
DP- There is a quickness to some of the strokes in your pieces?
MM- So the work is the reference to reflect what I’m feeling right then, probably because of what is going on in the world or one feeling I am having. So it revolves around the energy, the vibration, and the space in time and time bonds, everything together. It depends on the moment. If the energy is instant, so is the work, and you can see that. Some take longer than others, partly because of the backgrounds, trying to find what bonds the balance and energy until it feels right, make it fuse.
DP- How do you think people see your work?
MM- All the pieces I have made during my life are made from a message I receive. I feel like the viewer finds their answer to the questions I ask. Working in the graphic field, you often create things, and the only way you can judge what it really looks like is by stepping away from it and pretending you’re another person. So, in a way, if a person walked right through the show, viewing it only through and their phone, that is a way of perceiving it. That is their experience.
DP- You do have this intentional kind of roughness, and some pieces are much more kind. You have incorporated a lot of different kinds of materials and layers. Tell me about them.
MM- Oil, Acrylic, mud, stones, sticks, but it’s all about the energy. Everything speaks to the energy. When you stand in front of some pieces, you can feel what it’s like to be in the middle of Africa. You can feel it here in New York City; whatever city you are in, you can tell. I don’t really talk a lot, so my soul is in pieces. It is self-explanatory. I don’t need to tell you what the books are all about.
DP– So, you pick them up when you are taking a walk?
MM-Yes, sometimes I recycle the materials I use mailing the pieces. I’ll add them back, like towels you use to wipe the studio. The wipes in the studio are just as important as the brushes.
DP-Repurposed things. Maybe that’s where the release of memories is coming from too?
MM-Yes, but I also have a lot of collage in them, built-up materials, fabrics, sewing, pen, and depending on the piece. I don’t force it.
DP- What kind of tools do you use otherwise?
I don’t have fancy tools. I tend to recreate my tools, but still, people give me new ones. The aged ones give another aesthetic that people see in the pieces. So, I don’t go for more refined ones. Knives, forks, some blades, manipulated things: pallet knives, brushes. I love pallet knives. I’ll use some flat brushes, but the pallet knives for me are more precise. I love that. Maybe it’s where the energy comes from, painting something you were physically using your hands.
DP- What city were you born in?
Lagos, Nigeria, is an island on the coast of West Africa, its an island on an island. Bubble Islands. My mom is from Cutesy, which is a tribe in Nigeria as well. So she is from Euro box, and our dad is from another tribe, he is British Brazilian.
DP- Do you feel like you blossomed when you got here seven years ago? When do you feel like it took off, like emotionally, with your art?
When I came to America, it was because I really wasn’t allowed or supported to be an artist. I always wanted to do more, and express myself because it gives me depth and the joy it creates. So when I got here, it was amazing the opportunities! It was mind-blowing, you know, so I knew I could do anything I wanted to do if I set my mind to it and stick to it and give it time. So I was patient. And when I met my wife, Joanna, she was the one who really pushed me. She was the first major support I had, and being an artist like this; she is my everything. She saw it. It is such a nice feeling, especially when you have that female presence lifting you up. Even Michelle, and you, women are the core value of everything. Women have made everything possible, you know. So, having these people around me, I am very very grateful.
DP- What are you looking forward to?
MM-I want to be in a very good place. Where I can keep creating, and it’s all I want to do, that keeps me happy, and that’s everything to me. I want to make more sculptures and explore more places in the world, so I can gain more knowledge. I’d love a bigger studio, so I can just go wild and have no limits to whatever I do! It is all a goal, and every goal is a goal for our team.
Regina Peris, the Director of Path, where Moyo’s “IRANTE” series will the opening show for the gallery, tells Portray, “This show is about honoring Moyo and his experiences. We can all relate to nostalgia, perceiving the progress of who we used to be, and connect through what it’s like to watch someone’s achievement and progression without losing their essence. The world needs a lot of that today. We may not come from the same background, but we have all a similar story on the path of achievement.”
Since his days in Nigeria, he has been acutely aware of his blessings. He is now a father, a husband, and creative. He is in tune with the invisible lure pulling him toward his destiny. Careful with his thoughts, Moyo yields virtue through his work. His energy is like a candle that accepts the wind and places the light perfectly. His canvases, contain both the past in the present and give something that will be left here, until next time. They are a humbling ode to where he evolved from, a deep thankfulness for where he is, and most importantly, enjoying his life, “knowing” these are the Good Old Days!