It’s a bit of a shame to confine the work of Alejandro Martinez (aka Alej Ez) to our A5 cover. His panoramic drawings which capture local landscapes with the kind of confident, sparing line you might expect of an architect, often extend over several metres. One of his most popular prints is of the view east from Hove Lagoon on a very clear day. “When I got back to the studio and zoomed into the photographs, I could see so much detail. All the way to Belle Tout Lighthouse [near Beachy Head]. Would you believe that was possible?!”
He has worked at Archangels Architects in Kemp Town for the past five years and credits them with encouraging his art as well as his architecture. He still produces many of his preliminary drawings and feasibility studies by hand. “The job of an architect is complex – you must be a craftsman, a draftsman, understand construction, legislation, detailing – so, to feed my creative side, I began to take my art more seriously.” He now works four days a week at the practice and spends Fridays and weekends at the long-running artists’ cooperative, Studio Greenhouse, where he’ll work on, say, a study of the ruined remains of the West Pier, a meticulous rendering of the Royal Pavilion façade, or plot the elaborate details of our Regency buildings. “I was born in Granada, which is very exotic, so it’s lovely to know that the arches of the bandstand on Brighton seafront are based on the arches of the Alhambra palace. It’s good to make links. It makes me feel at home.”
The drawings are then scanned and layered with sophisticated, saturated colour; the resulting images presenting the city as the best version of itself. “I edit the images with some artistic license: I let my eye capture an essence instead of every last detail. I move things around until I find them more pleasing. There are normally no people in them at all – maybe that comes from my architectural training – but it makes the scenes look like it’s five in the morning and nobody is there. It’s very soothing. It gives them a sense of peace and quiet.”
More recently, Alej has turned his attention to the wider Sussex countryside. Inspired by the likes of Eric Ravilious and Paul Nash, he has been working on views of Firle, Cuckmere Haven and Devils Dyke, his panoramic style lending itself to the broad sweep of the landscape.
This being our ‘streets’ issue, our cover features some quintessentially Brighton buildings from the Old Steine. They are taken from the much larger ‘Hers and His’ print, which includes Mrs Fitzherbert’s house as well as HRH’s Royal Pavilion, and we highly recommend that you seek it out in full scale. There is always a great selection of Alej’s work at Leo Frames (70 North Road) where, quite often, one of his panoramic prints will be in the window. All the better to stand back and take in the view.
Alejandro will be exhibiting at Art 83 in Kemp Town and Number Ten in Palmeira Square in May’s Artists Open Houses festival. alejez.com, leoframes.com, aaarchitects.co.uk