By Michael Aaron Gallagher of StayFamous.Net
Kellogg walks slowly toward Escher, who is seated in contemplation. There is a large painting, blended with hues of black and gray on display before him.
“How did you find me?” Escher asks, as Kellogg stands blocking his view. After a brief exchange, the piercing sound of two gunshots, muffled by a silencer, breaks the quiet and one of them is dead.
For fans of the television series Continuum (currently on Netflix), there is no mistaking the undeniable contribution Canadian artist Marta Baricsa brings to the small screen. Her paintings are themselves a character, filled with energy and emotion. They create a tone that sets the mood for an entire scene.
Some artists aspire to have their work shown in art galleries or enjoy commercial success, but Marta has gone a step beyond that by also having her work selected to appear in more than 20 projects in television and film. You may have seen her works on screen in Big Eyes, Catwoman, Fifty Shades Of Grey, Life or Something Like It, This Means War, Star Trek: Beyond, Helen, Hollow Man 2, The Interview, Continuum (Season 2, 3 and 4), The Flash, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce, Rush, Un Real (Season 2), Fringe (Season 13), Arrow, Motive, Fallen, 50/50, Firewall, The 4400, The L Word (Season 3 and 5), Men In Trees (Season 1), and The Stagers (on HGTV).
When I first discovered her paintings, I was immediately drawn to them. There was a profound simplicity and beauty in them that I found enchanting. They were not just trivial works of modern art, or splashes of paint on canvas, they were deliberate and full of intention. Her work and her incredible story resonated with me so much, in fact, that she helped me rediscover a love of art that I had in my childhood and eventually made me want to own an original oil painting for myself.
Now, years later, as an art collector, I am returning to her work with an even greater appreciation for the extraordinary artist that she has become. What makes her stand out in a crowded landscape of modern artists is her true passion for her craft and her eye for composition. The difference between a good artist and a great artist is that a good artist speaks to the viewer and a great artist speaks to the masses. Marta Baricsa’s work is reshaping the mood, setting a tone on screen and creating a visual narrative that will last forever as a part of Hollywood history.
I had the opportunity to ask her more about her impressive body of work and the exciting projects she has been a part of in the entertainment industry through the years. She was kind enough to share her remarkable journey with me and it is a story that will continue to inspire me to think bigger, dream bigger and aspire to leave a lasting legacy through my own work.
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “So first of all, tell me a little bit about your background. What sort of training have you had and did you study art in school?”
Marta Baricsa: “I studied at two art schools. My first was a special arts program at Central Technical School. Then later I went to the Ontario College of Art. Which is now called OCADU in Toronto. I studied painting, drawing and some printmaking in the Experimental Arts Program.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “When did you begin taking art seriously?”
Marta Baricsa: “Probably when I was around 14 years old… Though I remember being in kindergarten with my hands in the paint, feeling a great joyous connection and hearing myself say, ‘This is what I’m going to do with my life’ – a very ah-ha moment.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “How did you get started as a professional artist and what was it that made you think you could make a profession out of it instead of just a hobby?”
Marta Baricsa: “I decided that I was going to move to Vancouver in 2000 to finally pursue my art full time. I did not have a clue how I was going to do it but with VISA, MasterCard and a small amount of cash I opted to throw my life away. I knew that if I did not make the commitment then I never would.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What was it like for you when you sold your first big painting?”
Marta Baricsa: “It was kind of exciting and a bit nerve-racking. I sold my big one in art college. I had no idea what to charge. My instructor said $1,200 was a fair price for a student work of that size. So I sold it for that.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Are you drawn toward art that is similar in style to your own or are you passionate about another genre or artist?”
Marta Baricsa: “There are many artist works in history that have inspired me at different times in my life. One of my early favorites and still to this day is JWM Turner. I was drawn to his turbulent seascapes… so full of motion and energy and dramatic lighting. I also have several other favorites – from Tapies, Malevich, Hans Hofmann, Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Rothko, Julian Schnabel, Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Matisse and Rembrandt. I enjoy Warhol and Koons too. These days I rarely go to galleries or museums, mostly because I am caught up in my own work.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “My favorite painting you did was the Untitled circle painting from Continuum. I noticed that you do a lot of Om paintings. What is it about that shape that is so important to you?”
Marta Baricsa: “Untitled, 6, 2004 is one of the works that inspired my Om paintings. Though I had done many works with circles or part circles previously, this one seemed to have a lot more going on. The process of doing the Om paintings is very focusing and meditative for me. I do all of my circles by hand without the use of any devices… such as a compass or overhead projector. Plus I don’t make any corrections. So what is there… is only what has been there… no over painting. I also see these works being connected to my more gestural works. What captivates me is the intensity and focus to say more with less. That is also what Directivism is about. Focus, clarity, clean painting nothing over-painted unless it is intended. So much of what we see in the art world today I would call “caught in confusion” it’s like the artist is trying to say absolutely everything in the one painting… like a chaotic eruption of nothingness. Perhaps they just reflecting the chaos of life? Speaking of chaos, I have just started reading a book called Chaos – making a new science. It is by James Gleick. I think it may hold some very interesting answers about life. Other books I’ve found fascinating are Modern Art & Modern Science: The Parallel Analysis of Vision by Paul C. Vitz and Arnold Glimcher. I also am interested in Gestalt theory and the Law of Attraction.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “I also love your more whimsical pieces that resemble Japanese calligraphy. Where did that influence come from?”
Marta Baricsa: “In art school one of my teachers said – ‘You paint like you are drawing…’ I think that struck me in a way. Years later, I received a letter back from Curator Nato Thompson of MASS MoCA who stated, ‘Your non-narrative paintings evoke contemporary Japanese calligraphy.’ I believe line is a way I express clear fluid movement. I think that directness is where the awareness of my new movement Directivism stemmed from. Directivism is about straightforward work, with clarity, no corrections, while being confident and allowing the connection to happen without control.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What are some of the things that motivate you to create a new piece?”
Marta Baricsa: “While I have many ideas floating around in my mind and many sketches at any given time there is always a pull toward doing each piece. Sometimes it is the shape, sometimes it is the feeling that it portrays, sometimes it is a sequence, as if it’s a language I am building. As in the D.O.L.A. (development of language art) Directivist works. Other times it is a color in unison that captures me. I build on ideas and bodies of work not in logical sequence but by a drive to make them.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “How have you changed as an artist over the years and what are some of the lessons you’ve learned about what it means to be a modern artist?”
Marta Baricsa: “I thought success was going to be an overnight thing! Then a very wise woman told me that, life is a journey. This is now starting to sink in. I have also had to learn to do my own marketing as it was not taught in school back then. Though it has been a lot of work it has been a journey in itself that I have found to be very challenging yet enjoyable. Lately I have been letting things flow a lot more without pushing so hard. After all I realized that I paint because I love to not because I have to. I also learned that professionalism is the fine line between a professional and a hobbyist.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “How did you make the jump from being one of millions of painters out there to having your art showcased on screen in television and movies? Was there something that pushed you in that direction?”
Marta Baricsa: “I moved from Toronto, ON to Vancouver, BC in late 2000 and soon set up a studio in an artist’s live/work building in Vancouver’s Eastside. I was working steadily on my paintings and approached a local bedding shop about selling some of my small paintings. They took some on… and in a matter of weeks the store had contacted me about a set decorator’s request to use them in a film. I had to sign the release forms and they purchased the works. Another time a set decorator came to our artist building looking for artwork for Catwoman with Halle Berry. I eagerly stated that I had many large paintings. They rented one painting to start with and then they needed a specifically sized painting to cover a mirror. After showing me the set and what they needed, I then went back and painted one for them that fit their requirements. Later they came back to rent another 7-8 large paintings. The whole art rental to the movies developed quite serendipitously and has continued to expand. As I got to know more set decorators I began sending them more images of my paintings. I then began to realize how big the film industry is here in Vancouver. I have been very fortunate that my art works well for their sets. Plus it helps that I do a lot of work so they have a lot to choose from. Since I began I have only done two commissions for films and the other one was for Tim Burton’s movie Big Eyes.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Of course I found your work back when it was featured on Continuum. How did that whole thing come about?”
Marta Baricsa: “A set decorator and art director that had previously seen and rented my paintings before requested to rent two large paintings for the museum scene with Escher. One of the paintings featured prominently. I guess the writers felt that this was the piece that captured Escher’s attention. The next season they required that painting again and several more paintings in digital format for the screens at Piron Corporation as it was said to be a part of Escher’s aesthetic.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “The pieces you had displayed in the show were so well blended with the theme and style of the series. How did you manage to evoke that tone with your art?”
Marta Baricsa: “While I can only take credit for the making of my work, which I actually made between 2001-2004, I can say that they somehow connected to my art and saw the parallel vision. Perhaps we all lived in parallel timelines?! Ha ha!! I often work with dark tones and black, grey, silver and whites. I think the set decorators and art director with the writers already had set the tone of what it would feel like between the years 2013- 2077 and somehow my art connected with their vision of it all, which of course was lucky for me. So without previous knowing, we all co-created this together.
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “How did you get involved with Big Eyes and how many paintings were featured in the movie?:
Marta Baricsa: “I got a call from the set dec department saying they were looking at my art for Tim Burton’s new film. Of course I was ecstatic, especially when they said the director loved my stuff. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a Tim Burton film? They requested I email them images of my paintings so I did. And in a few days they arranged an appointment to see my art. I was told a decorator named Shane would be coming to see my art. Before he showed up I had realized that I had already worked with him years ago when he rented my two huge paintings for Seth Rogen’s 50/50 movie. When he came by, he photographed a bunch of paintings and within the next few days I was contacted back to have a meeting. Shane showed up at with the offer and all the plans to the gallery with the paintings marked and slotted in for the scenes. Along with the rental I was commissioned to paint 8 paintings for the movie, so a total of around 30 of my paintings were selected and it looks like about 18 showed in the movie. The scenes are in Rubin’s Gallery when Walter, Christoph Waltz, goes into the gallery. Rubin is played by actor Jason Schwartzman. There are also some exterior window shots of the gallery, plus a background gallery street scene with some of my art.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “In a way, a TV show or movie is a piece of art. So when your art becomes a part of another artistic vision are you ever worried about the response you might get to how yours was portrayed, or are you more happy that a larger audience is able to view your work than would have otherwise been able to see it?”
Marta Baricsa: “Oh sure… I could be. Due to scene requirements, sometimes the work gets turned sideways…. But I don’t want to take myself that seriously. After all they are paying me and I get to make more art I am compelled to make. So far my art has been in two museum shows, many gallery scenes, some huge corporations, in some cool contemporary homes and in some dark and ominous characters’ places! Does that say something about me? Hmmm.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What are you most proud of when it comes to your art?”
Marta Baricsa: “Staying true to my artistic vision. I paint what I want to paint. No ones asks me to paint flowers or scenic art.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Are you amazed when you go back and look at a scene, knowing that your own work has become a part of Hollywood history, or does it still feel a little surreal?”
Marta Baricsa: “Yes it is pretty bizarre! Though at the same time it can seem normal. It is always fun to see where they show up. I am just happy to be a part of it and hope it keeps generating more interest in my work.”
For more information about Marta Baricsa’s paintings, including how to purchase originals and signed prints, visit www.martabaricsa.com.
“Marta Baricsa’s Legacy of Art on the Big Screen”
Copyright © 2018 by Michael Aaron Gallagher
Photography courtesy of Marta Baricsa
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