Martin Whatson (b.1984) is a Norwegian street artist known for his calligraphic scribbles in grayscale voids. Over the past decade, Martin has developed an unmistakable aesthetic combining abstract movement with figurative stencilled compositions. His works mirror the rise and fall of the streets, as he symbolically recreates the urban environment, then vandalises it to reveal his vibrant transformations.
Growing up in Oslo, Norway, Martin was an active part of the emerging graffiti scene of the early '90s, which maintained zero tolerance. The physical architecture of the city was a constant inspiration, the elaboration and destruction of each generation contributing to the urban infrastructure. The same deconstructive processes are seen in his creative influences of Jose Parla and Cy Twombly.
In the early 2000s, this interest in layers became more literal with the introduction of stencils into his work. The evolution moved him closer to a simple yet effective aesthetic he believed could bridge the gap between the passion and spontaneity graffiti held for him, with the fragility and transience of nature. This balance would come to define his creative approach.
With as many works on walls as on canvas and paper, each piece's relationship between vulnerability and strength remains constant. Delicate and organic characters feature; butterflies, ballerinas and animals all rendered in empty grayscale space. Almost stylised, these minimal figures are constructed of a few layers of hand-cut stencils. The ashen tones of the compositions and vacant backgrounds are reminiscent of his alternative canvas, concrete. True to form, no grey space stays grey for long in Martin's presence. Whether immersing entirely or embellishing a detail, the images disappear beneath expressive, spray-painted strokes of assorted colours and textures.
Martin's work is seen at festivals, in projects and on walls globally. His original work can be found in private collections and institutions worldwide and has been shown in solo exhibitions in Tokyo to LA, London to New York.