portrait of howard hodgkin the space of desire the picture of dorian grey
the dream of life (a.k.a. in the steps of jackson pollock. see awards) a shepherd sky wilderness
post traumatic zone framed scene with interfering element significance with purity
aesthetic peacock construction. (see awards) conclusion of desire when worlds collide



Martin Vallis

Studied Visual Communication at Medway College of Art and Design from 1976-79 and moved to London in 1980. After working as a photographic assistant to commercial photographer Gary Bryan for 3 years he decided to set up his own studio in Chelsea in 1983, specialising in high quality still life photography, working in the areas of Advertising, Design and Editorial. Martin also shot stills on commercials, working primarily with directors Howard Guard and Ridley Scott (Alien/Blade Runner). Some of Martin’s clients included British Airways, BMW, Volkswagen and Selfridges to name a few.

While working in the commercial world Martin’s style began to evolve, leading to primarily tightly cropped, close up work, using effective lighting, mostly Tungsten, to bring out texture and detail.

After 20 odd years Martin left commercial photography and now concentrates on his own work. I ask him to talk about his images, he hesitates and says to do so would require him to open himself up to potential criticism and ultimately leave him vulnerable but says he’s happy to do so but needs to give some context and a revealing of his personal life and adds laughing perhaps a warning, the next paragraph may be a shock for some.

He says his personal life has been chaotic and catastrophic to put it mildly. It’s been a challenge and a catalogue of Suicide Attempts, Breakdowns, Psychiatric Hospitals, Detox Hospital, Rehab Programme and Mental Health Treatment Centres.

The biggest difficulty for him was simply why he found life so traumatic and had so much trouble in relating to everyone and everything. For a long time he had no answers but in 2005 while in a Treatment Centre answers were provided. He was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (also known as Borderline Personality Disorder) along with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the traits of both conditions fit him like a glove and his life finally fell into place, everything at last made sense.

He’s been clean and sober for 13 years and also works part time training Mental Health Professionals in the field of Personality Disorder, as an Expert by Experience in an effort to improve their practice and ultimately with the aim to help them, help others who suffer with his condition. He says he loves the work and feels it’s the least he can do, to give back to all those who’ve given him so much. He says the work has taught him so much about himself.

Martin understands that some may not appreciate his honesty, but continues, when he reads something about a person he may momentarily be impressed by the Art College or University they went to or the awards or successes they’ve had but in truth he's more interested in the ‘Tortured Genius’ that tells you far more about a person. He's spent so long in ignorance and denial of himself, he will not be in denial any longer. If people don’t like that, then so be it.

Is he worried that he may have Breakdowns in the future, of course it’s always a possibility but he knows so much more about himself today that he feels he has a better chance of dealing with the issues should they arise.

So, to get back to his images, firstly the majority of images have relevance and all categories say something about him.

Leaves and Texture are his many personalities, states of mind, emotions, the fragility of his life. They reflect his many struggles, the heart of him, his essence, which can be equally raw, scary and beautiful and often, all at the same time. In addition Leaves represent the ‘Cycle of Life and Death’. Buddhists say, until we accept the inevitability of Death, then we can’t begin to enjoy life, he’s inclined to agree.

Shadows are his darkness.

Art City/Street are simply about not taking everything at face value. We are very good at putting labels on people and objects, making judgments and assumptions, when for the most part we don’t know the full story and don’t take the time to find out. He knows from his own personal experience how important it is to see the bigger picture, not just the snapshot. People and objects are far more interesting if only we take the time to find out. If we take Art City for instance, if we took those images and painted them on canvas and then hung them in a gallery our relationship with them would change. We would see the same subject in a different light but because they just happen to be in the street we pass by without a second glance. He’d like to ask viewers to take a second glance to look a bit more deeply and allow your imagination to play.

Cars, He's a big fan of classic American and European cars of the 50’s and 60’s and has owned a few. They appeal to his love of design/style. But of course he adds they’re also his fantasy, his ego a reflection of our desire and obsession with materialism. Whenever he drove any of his classic cars it allowed him to escape from the reality of his life as it does for most of us. The difficulty he had was leaving the fantasy behind when he stepped out of the vehicle, something he acknowledges he wasn’t always able to do, distinguishing fantasy from reality. In this selection he’s not interested in capturing the car in it’s entirety but chooses to isolate areas to concentrate on and explore colour and shape.

Throughout his career his style has changed, though there has been the ever-constant preference for simple images of solitary objects that reflect texture and shape, less is more he says. We spend so much time looking for the ‘Big Picture’ that we miss the ‘Beauty of Simplicity’. He also feels that it says something about him, a deeply felt sense of isolation, solitude and emptiness but he’s eager to add he now knows those feelings are more to do with his condition rather than the reality.

Martin's prints are for sale at Artfinder and Saatchi Art

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Mob: 07975871231

Images © Martin Vallis. Website Design: Martin Vallis