Martin Hummel-Gradén's art is direct, spontaneous and exuberantly imaginative. As viewers, we get a direct connection straight into the artist's creative brain who, despite a severe stroke, cannot help bubbling, giggling and gaping
wild ideas. The drive to express oneself visually has always been there – now it finds brave new ways out into the world.
Martin Hummel-Gradén was born in 1978 in Aalborg and came to Sweden as a three-year-old. From since childhood he has drawn and painted in a constant flow. He grew up in a family where it the artistic conversation buzzed around him. Grandma Ditte Cederstrand was one of Denmark's foremost worker writer and his aunt Tove Hummel is both an artist and a great collector of art. In Gothenburg, mother and father spent time with painters such as Gunnar Thoren and Albin Amelin and their homes and studios made a strong impression on the young Martin.
"I met people in Tuve who were doing grafitti and a new world opened up.
We went into Gothenburg and spray painted in the train tunnels at night,
listened to Kriss Kross and was chased by controllers."
In the early nineties, he discovered graffiti. The spray cans, the colors, the large formats and the excitement that came with hip-hop culture was a given continuation of sketching with paper and pencil at home in the boy's room. This was followed by an education in media and information technology which took him to Stockholm's advertising agency world. He won awards – Golden Egg, Eurobest, Cannes Lions and EPICA - but after fifteen years as art director, he gradually began to lose interest for advertising. Instead, the passion for illustration and pure design grew, which got him to start his own design agency in his hometown of Gothenburg.
"With a stroke, you lose a bit of your identity. Art is a valve, that shows who I was and still am. The creative has been one large part of my life and when I paint everything feels as usual.”
Then something happened that changed everything. At Easter 2020, Martin and his partner were expecting their first children, the company had just got its first office of its own and on the weekends the couple fixed up a house and garden. When he set out on a short run, he didn't know it would take 242 days before he came home again. A serious stroke came in between.
Martin woke up after four days on a respirator. Soon after, he became a father. After a long hospital stay with rehab and job training, he was then allowed to come home. He who was previously stamped of restless energy, bubbling laughter and persistent creation was now bound to a body with walking and speech difficulties and twisted fingers. At first he didn't even want to make an attempt to pick up the drawing tools. It hurt way too much, not in the body but in the soul.
But then one day he painstakingly drew a few lines. And then it came right back; the feeling. The free zone where everyday obstacles disappear, where he can focus, switch off and dream away. A pen, a blank piece of paper. Now anything can happen!
About the art
Martin Hummel-Graden is a self-taught artist, while the expression is colored by his long background in design, design and graffiti.
With curious creative joy, he lets his whims rule. The first thought is always “What would be fun to draw today?” The result is spontaneous and immediate. The references to graffiti culture are clear; here is the same irreverence and playfulness. But also the same feeling of wanting bring out your own personal message here and now. No waiting, no overthinking.
In addition, there is a direct connection to the language of advertising. Martin Hummel-Gradén is happy to help powerful slogans and symbols. The associations go to pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg - humorous and strongly recognizable to many pop cultural references as well as everyday objects as models for the works.
In terms of form, Martin Hummel-Graden is not tied to the traditional. With the habit of new media and new aesthetics, he likes to experiment with different techniques. Although limited mobility and muscle power, he uses his digital drawing board, markers and sketch pens. To and with the spray can has made a comeback: With the help of his thumb, he has enough strength to push down the nozzle to release the colors just like before.
The motifs are a mixture that Martin takes from his own life and his rich fantasy world: Gadgets that were popular when he was little, cartoon characters, the team he loves, famous and unknown old men and the ever-present bumblebee. New ideas and insights flow quickly and easily. The nostalgic gets new life and is put into a contemporary context. Always with a twinkle in his eye. Always with his heart pounding hard with passion and love.