Martina Paukova Illustrates Refreshing
Moments When Our "On" Buttons Are Off
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
Berlin-based WNW Member Martina Paukova's flattened yet colorful illustrations show interiors inhabited by awkward characters. The environments are commonplace but the humor she injects into them are one of a kind. A girl irons her clothes with a boy flattened and neatly folded on a hanger nearby. A girl sits at a desk, her arm reaching deep into a computer screen as if she's hoping to pull something out. A couple twist their limbs around one another on a yoga mat while eating from a pizza box. As Martina explains in our interview below, the common thread through all of these scenes is normal, non-performing characters. "Especially in this time and age, when everyone’s skin is out there, curated and self-published and regrammed, I think the idea of each of us when the ‘ON’ button is off is just fascinating. And this is where the domestic interior space comes into the play - charged by vital relationships, memories, emotions, objects, it becomes this experienced space, a space where we just become non-performing and normal." Normally weird, at least.
Stay tuned for more big things from Martina. She recently hit a creative milestone with "Girls", her first London exhibition, on display at The Book Club through April 8th.
How would you describe your creative style?
I guess I’d see it as a set of awkward bony characters set within rather uneventful environments, often tending to the most mundane tasks and experiencing an almost constant state of awe. The spaces they are set within are super flattened, filled with everyday furniture and objects; phones and computers are almost compulsory and so are the coffee cups. Humour and loads of colours are a must.
What were some of the challenges and breakthroughs in launching your creative career?
I think one of the major challenges was to overcome the lack of any creative past or a background where I would be made aware of any potential creativity in me. I was brought up to push things academically and I’ve previously studied politics and social sciences. So when I found myself in London doing graphic design and illustration - I kept having major doubts whether I could ever catch up with all the other kids from arty backgrounds, and whether I could make it and all. In terms of breakthroughs, there were numerous small ones: the moments when my illustrations first got noticed online, the support from my tutors and classmates - these were special and validating. Thanks to these moments, I kept on creating! Eventually bigger things happened, clients reached out, and so did my current agent - Agent Pekka, a massive moment of pride : )
What was your process for illustrating the pieces in your Girls show, now on display at London’s Book Club?
The images shown in the show were bits and bobs created in the space of last year - basically whenever I had a free spot in between paid gigs. There was no theme or concrete topic on mind when doing them and when the invitation to do a show came up, I was super pleased to see that these images do work as a whole! Clearly, some sort of particular sentiment had been going on in my head throughout that year, and I am glad it resulted in a show.
Do you have a few rough sketches going at a time and then slowly develop them? Or do you step inside one scene at a time?
Sort of! I keep these quite unorganised notebooks where I write down To Do lists, sketches and notes for clients, little reminders and also some personal ideas. They come in clusters - for example I may be going though a particular mood or a feeling and have a moment to draw and try to make a visual note of it (am trying to cash in on it hehe). Later on, sometimes even after a few months, I revisit those notes and sketches and develop the strongest ones. At times I can churn out one image in a day, other times it takes weeks, depending on the amount of client work and my mood. (I have to be in quite a particular mood to get creatively personal and start scratching the surface.)
Did you create any new pieces specifically for the exhibit? How did those pieces or the process for making them differ from the ones you already had on hand?
Actually I did! The one called ‘Presenting’ I’ve been planning on creating for some time now, but never found time to do it. So the show proved to be a powerful incentive. I also developed 3 other sketches for the show, ones that I had lurking in my notebook. So yeah, it's been a fruitful time, and it felt good to be pushed!
What interests you most about interiors?
They are super closely linked to the domestic and to the everyday - the massive common denominator of most of my work. I think I can trace it back to my Masters at the Camberwell, when I realised and studied how attracted I am to the scenes that are seemingly banal, off-duty and non-performing. Especially in this time and age, when everyone’s skin is out there, curated and self-published and regrammed, I think the idea of each of us when the ‘ON’ button is off is just fascinating. And this is where the domestic interior space comes into the play - charged by vital relationships, memories, emotions, objects, it becomes this experienced space, a space where we just become non-performing and normal.
Do you find gender dynamics amusing, irritating, or both? Do you aim to have your work take a stance or simply offer a scene worth exploring?
I do find it amusing and I am definitely not trying to make a statement. If anything, I am trying to take the edge away and bathe it all in some sort of an over-the-top humour.
If we were to see inside your workspace, what would we find?
Nothing extraordinary I am afraid! I guess you’d see a very neatly organised space, with Wacom tablet and coffee cup and some pens and notebooks and sweet treats.
There’s humor to your work that’s sometimes subtle and other times more outright. Who makes you laugh?
My humour can be bit too much at times, so I am trying to keep it tame. Am still learning to create with it!
What would be your dream project or job, or is it already on your resume?
Haha I am still looking for one! But I guess the setup I have going on now is pretty okay, let’s see what happens : ) I wouldn’t mind doing something of larger scale and within a living environment. Something like illustrating Google’s offices or something. Hm!
What do you do when Not Working?
Very normal stuff like reading, Interneting, munching, seeing people. Basically getting charged so I can be Working.
What’s the best advice you’ve heard or received that all creatives should hear?
I don’t think this is the best advice I’ve heard but I did like it: It’s okay not to have concrete goals or not to think whether your work will make it or not. Just keep on creating. No need to look left or right.
Who are some other WNW members whose work you admire and why?
WNW is such an immense pool of talent, I don’t dare to pick one; we are all in it.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
Probably carrying on walking the path I’ve started walking, possibly trying to introduce some life drawing and clothes-making side activity (has been on my list for some time now). As for what I am working on now, three things : a picture for Apple’s Today’s Tab, one picture for The Observer on sex addiction and one picture for Adobe’s 99U magazine on HR departments, so yea, a mixed bag . And one personal image too.