Mesmerizing Portraits That Capture Multiple Moments in a Single Second

Chevron #1, 2011.

Copyright Isabel M. Martinez

For many of us, trying to recall even a handful of conscious moments we have during a day is difficult enough. Imagine trying to remember 40 moments in a single second.

That is part of the inspiration behind Isabel M. Martinez’s series, “Quantum Blink,” an analog produced project that examines the idea that time consists of a series of “nows” we continually connect like links in a chain.

Martinez said she came up with “Quantum Blink” after reading about a neurophysiologist who discovered that our brain activity oscillates at an average rate of 40 Hz which would translate (according to quantum mechanics) to 40 conscious moments a second.

“That piece of information led me to wonder about what things might look like if that hiccup, that blink, that ubiquitous flicker were made visible,” Martinez wrote via email. “I began to think about those fissures, tried to imagine them, and pondered over what could possibly reside in the gaps between instants of consciousness.”

One of Martinez’s previous series, “The Weekend,” used a slicing, multiple exposure technique that was done in-camera, with times between exposures reaching up to seven months apart.

Dock #1; Dock #2, 2011.

Copyright Isabel M. Martinez

The Weekend #5
The Weekend #5, 2009.

Copyright Isabel M. Martinez

Pond, 2011.

Copyright Isabel M. Martinez

For “Quantum Blink” Martinez used a similar technique, but with exposures ranging from a few minutes to no more than an hour apart. The resulting images appear to shift and change depending on distance and angle from which they are viewed.

Martinez said she has long been intrigued by concepts of eternity and infinity, themes that play out in her art, whether through painting, drawing or photography. Those themes, “for which we humans have words, but do not understand” drive her work forward.

“I began to wonder about how things might look to someone who could actually inhabit eternity and infinity,” she said. “You would be able to see everything at once from all angles, and yet differentiate among its parts, but also see that they are inseparable form one another and belong to a continuum.”

A lot of Marinez’s work strives to engage with the uncertain amid the assumed. It incorporates math, drawing, color theory and serigraphic logic, and probes “the boundary between abstraction and representation, fact and fiction.” 

Crosswalk, 2011.

Copyright Isabel M. Martinez

Raised in Santiago de Chile, Martinez received a BFA from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica. She began the program thinking she would study sculpture and ended up working in photo-based art. After receiving her MFA from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, she now lives in Toronto because of its thriving art scene. 

Many of her ideas stem from childhood and, she said, trying to answer those early questions, instead of stifling them as an adult, provides her with a constant source of inspiration. She begins with a concepts and ideas that generate mental images. These, in turn, add more fuel to her thought process. “To me, image and thought are interchangeable,” she said. 

Art, for Martinez, is life. Something to be taken seriously and something that constantly asks questions.

“Successful art tickles the brain, plants the seed of wonder, makes you observe rather than simply look, and makes you ask even more questions. My role as an artist is to trigger the above-mentioned and do it with integrity and substance—fluff deflates, substance leaves a mark. We need quality to make its long awaited comeback.”

To read more about Martinez’s fine-art career, check out Crusade for Art

The Weekend #9
The Weekend #9, 2009.

Copyright Isabel M. Martinez