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Josyane Martinez Practices Her Own Form of Imaginative Aesthetic Alchemy

Les Visions de Nostradamus, Paintings64 x 51

The centerpiece of the French painter Josyane Martinez’s remarkable oil on canvas, “Hommage � Dali,” is the Surrealist master’s wife and favorite model Gala. Dali both idolized Gala and idealized her. Here, while her face is mature, her compact, unblemished nude body is that of an adolescent Venus. She stands like a living monument with a painter’s palette levitating over a pool of water serving as her pedestal, as much smaller spectators below gawk up in wonder from what appears to be a surreal public square. Meanwhile, a partial image of Dali himself appears in the upper left corner of the composition. In reality, Gala was not only a sex symbol to her husband but also a manager and a somewhat domineering mother figure. But here she appears to be more like a daughter and he the proud father (perhaps a version of Lolita’s doting stepfather Humbert Humbert!) drying her back –– albeit in a metaphysical, fragmented manner –– with one of those silky, sweat-drenched scarves that Elvis used to toss to his female admirers from the stage.
    Don’t blame me: such flights of farfetched, unabashed fancy are what the paintings of Josyane Martinez’s paintings can provoke in the receptive viewer, along with other unusual responses as well.
    As a 12 year old prodigy Martinez created a piece that caused a teacher to weep and apologize to the class for accusing her of using “transfer paper” when she proved that she had made a masterly drawing freehand.
    Of another major oil on canvas “Les Visions de Nostradamus” Martinez says, “As a child I lived in Salon de Provence, where the famous prophet once lived, and at seven years old I insisted that my grandfather accompany me to his abandoned house. I found the atmosphere strange and disturbing, a memory that has stayed with me to this day . . .”
    In her painting, the white bearded apothecary and reputed seer-prophet sits enthroned like a king or a pope as a mysteriously smoke-filled beam of light streams in through an open window, illuminating the globe on a revolving stand and the open book on the desk before him. It is an image to which a lesser artist might have added all manner of other anecdotal images and surreal props; yet Martinez exercises an admirable restraint, creating a composition that preserves the mystery of the man whose predictions have since been confirmed, at least to the satisfaction of his advocates, by many worldwide events.
    “My work is influenced by my knowledge of the East and of Ancient Egypt,” Martinez says, and another oil on canvas, “Masque de Toutankhamon,” bears this out. A gold bust of “King Tut,” (as we in the West have nicknamed him) stands next to a rolled papyrus scroll in the foreground. In the background, across a narrow Nile out of which three upright stone sarcophagus figures rise like the structure at Stonehenge, stand the Pyramids.
    Josyane Martinez brings such visionary personal imagery alive and makes it thoroughly believable by virtue of a flawless realist technique, accomplished with both brush and palette knife. In the true spirit of Surrealism, she endows improbable dreams with palpable form.     –– Maurice Taplinger

Josyane Martinez, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th St., April 19 - May 9, 2013. Reception: Thursday, April 25, 6 -8 pm

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