Linear art as a meditative practice with Shantell Martin

The line is capable of moving freely without abandon. That is precisely why New-York based, biracial artist, Shantell Martin has chosen to work predominantly with black and white, because of its simple, impactful nature. Of course, that means being in a hyper-focused state of mind during execution, especially with her live, immersive drawings, since all mistakes are easily exposed in black and white. Which is perhaps why she relishes the line: “It encourages and pushes you to be good”.

B&B Italia showcase at Art Basel Miami

Shantell, a British native, has lived in Japan for a large part of her artistic practice. While she has many creative collaborations with a variety of brands such as B&B Italia, North Face and more, the most recent collaboration with fragrance and brand studio, Joya, is something special, as it brings to live an ancient art form.

With beginnings as a 19th Century Brooklyn rigging garage turned ceramic studio, utilizing recyclable material, Joya’s first two candles with Shantell’s input has a decidedly modernist take. Shantell and Joya Studio’s founder, Frederick Bouchardy had met through a mutual friend, Jeff Staple, and as Frederick aptly states “This kind of reference goes a long way, especially when it comes to establishing trust, shared values and a kind of shared language—which is how I view collaborations. And Shantell has precisely that type of style that is immediately recognizable and constantly questioning, evolving but along the same path—her own. I believe we also personally share this desire to learn and connect.” The Shantell Martin x Joya candle takes us through the passage of time, drawing attention to the the daily routines of an artist, broken down into hours and minutes elapsed.

Shantell Martin x North Face Search & Rescue collection

Her thoughtful lines, coupled with years of practice, makes it instantly recognizable and draws the viewer deeper into how the lines connect.

Popspoken: Your candle collaboration with Joya focuses on the time elapsed in drawing them. Do you believe in the 10,000 hour rule?

Shantell Martin: I believe that if you want to get good at something, practice is the road to achieving that. I’m not sure if it’s 10,000 hours, but it is definitely about consistency. 

“My wish is that these candles can burn in the background during your creative process, much like a playlist, invigorating your senses and bringing you back to self.”

Shantell Martin
Image credit: Joya Studio

Popspoken: Diversity and inclusion (DEI) are big topics in American MNCs and the corporate world. How do you think creativity and art can help this process?

Shantell Martin: I think the more creative people are, the more freedom people have, the more of a creative outlet they have. This leads to happier people, further away from negativity and judgment. 

Popspoken: Tell us more about your time in Japan. What was your impression of the cultural scene and how do you relate to an Asian audience.

Shantell Martin: Being an outsider initially to Japan, many things were very different. I appreciated and respected those differences. With any culture there are things that you feel are positive, and perhaps there are other things you don’t understand that may feel — not as positive. For me, it’s important to go to places and be exposed to new ways of doing things. I was very open to the experience. As with my art, I choose to remain consistent in all facets of my life. I treat everyone with kindness and respect. 

Image credit: Eli Schmidt

Popspoken: You were born into a minority race and put yourself in uncomfortable situations in which you were a minority (e.g. your stint in Japan). As much as you have constantly labelled yourself as an “outsider”, do you let it define your identity and sense of self?

Shantell Martin: I am an outsider but I am also an individual. I live my life as myself, these factors are in a way external, and don’t dictate or direct anything that I do or the way I approach my life or my art. 

Popspoken: Share with us some Asian artists that you respect and that you one day hope to have a collaboration with.

Shantell Martin: The architect Tadao Ando. Because his work is absolutely beautiful. 

Featured image courtesy of Cole Haan. Joya x Shantell Martin’s limited edition collaboration candle can be purchased here.


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Explore latest trends in contemporary culture