Current Issue #488

Haneen Martin's Year of Art, Zines and Zombie Queens

Haneen Martin's Year of Art, Zines and Zombie Queens

Haneen Martin had hoped 2016 would be a quiet year, but things didn’t quite go as planned for the prolific local artist, curator and Zombie Queen Art & Consulting owner.

This year Martin has shown no sign of slowing. Among finishing her art history diploma, holding a popular zine swap and co-curating the gallery space at The Mill, she will also begin a residency this November at Nexus Arts as a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Artist. The residency will culminate in a 2017 Adelaide Fringe show, marking Martin’s fourth solo exhibition.

No stranger to self-expression through art, Malaysian born Martin has always been a maker.

“I have had a pen in my hand for as long as I can remember,” says Martin. “My mum and my late uncle were huge influences on me and encouraged me to be creative.”

This early encouragement has seen Martin approach both art and business organically, unfettered by perceived inability or inexperience.

haneen-martin-collage-adelaide-reviewHaneen Martin, Mixed media collage work in progress (2015) (Photo: supplied)

Martin reflects back to 2012 when mid-way through a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, she realised she had a penchant for model-making.  “I’ve always been doing art,” she says, “but around the time that I realised architecture wasn’t a career path I wanted to go down, I found aspects of an assignment that I really enjoyed and kept playing with that in my own free time… kept producing work based on that”.

The same assignment served as the catalyst behind Martins Unbuildables, which are balsa wood sculptures Martin designs and builds. In the years since, Martins Unbuildables have encapsulated various forms and sizes. Sharply outlined sculptures with uneven sides, they cast shadows as ambiguous as their function.

In 2015, Martin exhibited her Unbuildables at The Mill in the form of wooden sculptures as well as Polaroid photographs, drawings and photopolymer etchings. Titled Gutless, the show was Martins third solo exhibition, in which she sought to explore her own experience of moving to Australia at eight years of age.

haneen-martin-unbuildables-adelaide-reviewHaneen Martin, Unbuildables (2015) (Photo: Daniel Marks)

“I used the exhibition to explore themes of loss, displacement and memory with regards to losing my family home in Kuala Lumpur and how our minds are selective in what we remember, particularly after traumatic events,” she explains.  “Due to the deeply personal nature of the exhibition, I felt the most comfortable expressing this through abstract architectural forms so that people were free to interpret the work.”

Displacement is a theme that continues to inform Martins work, both as an individual artist and as a collaborator. A visit to Malaysia for a cousin’s wedding at the start of the year lent Martin fresh insight into her own cultural background and place among it, likening herself to one that “[comes] in with not-really-an-outsiders perspective but not-really-an-insiders either.”

haneen-martin-unbuildables-adelaide-reviewHaneen Martin, Unbuildables (2015) (Photo: Che Chorley)

Another trip in April of this year to Indonesia with a friend further opened up Martin’s understanding of identity, place and belonging.

“We realised that we both had really similar experiences where we could kind of speak the languages and understood the culture but everywhere we go people would ask, ‘Where are you from?’ It happens here [and] it happens where we’re from.”

Navigating the lingering effects of an upbringing characterised by uprootedness is an experience Martin shares with fellow Adelaide artist, Jake Holmes, and one which the two explored in their joint exhibition titled Looking Back/Moving Forward in July this year.

Wanting to “create another world [to] exist in,” Martin followed her intuition in the exhibition, using the medium of collages for the first time to build layered landscapes of photographs, textures and colours.

haneen-martin-collage-adelaide-reviewHaneen Martin, Mixed media collage work in progress (2015) (Photo: supplied)

Of her approach to creation, Martin puts it plainly, “I have this feeling and I need to get it out and my means of doing that is my hands.”

“I’m relatively good at imagining things in my head… but I often do that and then I’m like, ‘Cool! Have no idea how that’s gonna happen,’ and I write it down and come back to it later…I am enjoying fumbling along and seeing which media helps me get my message out at a specific time in my life.”

Now that the humble Martin has “fumbled” her way into a residency at Nexus Arts, she says she is excited to begin. She plans to delve deeper into themes which reflect to her lived experience – from displacement and diaspora, to the casual racism she encounters as a woman of colour. “I’ll get to be really indulgent and get to explore all of those things that I’ve been trying to do in short bursts,” she says.

Alongside this, Martin continues to run Zombie Queen Art & Consulting. In a progression as natural as her approach to art, Martin began Zombie Queen in 2014 after she found herself “spending a lot of time getting coffee with people” seeking her advice.

“Because it was a lot of me putting in my own time to kind of get [my art] off the ground, people started to notice it and would be like, ‘Hey do you want to get a coffee and we’ll can chat about how you did all these things, so I can do it too?’,” she explains.

(Photo: Bathsheba Abbey)

Martin doesn’t only help like-minded artists find their feet. She also curates events such as the Zombie Queen Zine Swap, a steadily growing zine fair that celebrated its fourth instalment early this year.

“Immediately after the first one I was getting emails from people saying, ‘Hey I want to be involved, when is the next one?’ So we thought, ‘Oh we can’t let this go.’”

Asked whether she ever feels inclined to slow her own momentum to focus on her own art, Martin declines, “It’s what I love doing – I really like where this takes me.”

“I think it was probably wishful thinking that I would focus on my own work for a little bit,” she smiles. “I love doing the Zombie Queen things and helping artists get out there. I couldn’t really let it slow down.”

Header photo: Jonno Revanche

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