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In the photograph ‘Punk’ by Christophe Martinez, a flash of neon pink hair reverberates against a stark black backdrop, an open zip glinting like a gaping mouth.

The image is characteristic of the Parisian artist’s work, which involves hair that has been sculpted and teased into vibrant abstract shapes.  Often the hair is re-imagined as another object entirely, like ‘Golden Shell’, a dynamic swirl of blonde and black which closely resembles its namesake.

The objects are vivid against the looming black background; every detail and each strand of hair is visible. Some objects, only partially emerging from the darkness, seem to glow, such as ‘Hemisphere’, a globe of colourful synthetic hair compressed into a net.

C. Martinez punk
Punk
C Martinez golden shell
Golden Shell
C. Martinez Hemisphere
Hemisphere

Martinez’s interest in hair is deeply rooted. He originally trained as a hairdresser but was always drawn to visual arts, experimenting with various media such as drawing, sculpture and collage. It was his interest in photography that proved to be the turning point, changing his viewpoint of hair to a medium for the creation of art. For Martinez it felt like a revelation, “I’d discovered the possibility of bringing hair to life, this material which I had instinctively been working with for years”.

Dark cross by C. Martinez
Dark Cross
Christophe Martinez detail Dark Cross
Dark Cross, Detail
"Hair is above all a living, palpable material"
Christophe Martinez
C. Martinez Trame gallery image
Trame
C. Martinez detail Trame
Trame, Detail
C. Martinez spirale
Spyrale
Detail spirale by C.Martinez
Spyrale, Detail

As well as manipulating hair through photography, Martinez plays with its texture and colour to create large-scale sculptures and installations. Works such as ‘Dark Cross‘ and ‘Spyrale‘ are created out of hair compressed between glass plates and used to form a large installation, like pieces of a puzzle. Light plays a vital part in bringing the works to life, with Martinez using it as a way to enhance and illuminate the flow and colour of the hair.  The result is a dynamic rippling effect as the viewer moves around the work and the light catches the hair, instilling it with movement. As Martinez states, “I like to play with the vibrations of light on hair. It is a testimony to the living body”.

Credits

Text Emma de Clercq
Images courtesy of Christophe Martinez Website

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