Haneen Martin on remaining true to her own vision & creating within Adelaide’s arts community

What does it mean to be an ‘artist’? What is classified as ‘art’? Living in a creative society where artistic merit is constantly scrutinised and picked apart by observers both within and outside the artistic community, it can be sometimes overwhelming to comprehend that your work, piece/s you’ve become so attached and close to, can be interpreted in so many ways by so many different people.

In Adelaide, the arts scene is thriving, with many young people thinking outside the box in terms of how their creative ideas are being manifested, whether it be through music, film, performance or visual art. For artist Haneen Martin, the momentum surrounding her various projects continues to swell and as she reveals, developing her style while remaining true to her vision and her own voice as a young creative, is a process she’s continuing to learn.

“I think my main concern when I’m creating new work, particularly with a socially conscious voice, is that feeling of self doubt that tells you that you’re carrying on too much, you’re overreacting, it’s not such a big deal.” She says. “That is most often overcome by a) listening to artists like MIA, Remi, Omar Musa, Santigold who never let their messages be silenced and b) chatting to my mum and other friends who have had experiences very similar to my own and recognising the fact that it is my duty as an artist and a curator to focus on the themes of my everyday life, which might empower other people who see my work. My dad also frequently falls victim my long rants about how I want to be identified and if I want to be the gal who just makes work about racism, sexism and being ethnic. I think I’ll worry about that more when I stop experiencing those things, then maybe I’ll need a new system!”

Working out of Adelaide studio The Mill, Martin describes the progression of the arts scene as she sees it, particularly off the back of her most recent exhibition, Looking Back/Moving Forward. Establishing the series with fellow artist Jake Holmes, the exhibition focused on the pair’s feelings of personal and cultural nostalgia (both had relocated to Australia from abroad with their families at a young age).

“This was a crazy time.” Martin admits. “The exhibition opened the same week that a play by Back Porch Theatre launched, which I did the set and costume design for and my first week back at uni. I was actually late to the opening because I had to go to my tute first. Madness aside, I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback which is particularly affirming as the exhibition featured a completely new style of work for me. As both a curator and artist, working with Jake was a dream from the very beginning. We have a very open line of communication and bounced ideas off each other really well.”


“The exhibition was about how Jake and I both migrated to Australia at 9 and 8.” She explains. “Jake produced really beautiful, touching works of art where I produced quite loud, kitsch works to balance out the seriousness behind what I wanted to say. For me, it opened up opportunities for conversation about what it means to consciously settle in Australia, being biracial and living between two cultures.”

“The Adelaide artistic community is probably the same as many others,” Martin adds, commenting on the creative community she’s currently working in. “People are competitive and fierce, but there are also many within the community who genuinely want to see their peers excel and go out of their way to achieve that. The Mill is a fantastic example of a supportive arts community, everyone there is a small business owner working their butts off, but they will always take time out to give you a hand or just have a chat.”

As the brains behind Zombie Queen, a business established to help emerging artists as well as sell art of different styles, Martin has a fully plate of work to keep her occupied. When it comes to her style in particular, she delves into what’s driven her influences in the past through to now, and what her sights are set on next.

“I think I have a pretty steady rotation of influences that I draw my ideas from depending on my mood,” she says. “The thing that I keep coming back to is trying to represent what’s in front of me and then making it interesting for other people. As a kid, I would draw the Little Mermaid or bunches of flowers that we had around the house. These days, I still try to draw parts of my everyday life and then try to understand why that was important for me to do or why other people might relate to it.”

“In the last few years, I was heavily into making these really abstract architectural forms or ‘Unbuidables’ that would change to suit my mood and usually be exhibited with some text about why I made them. I still associate very strongly with them, but as I find my voice I am less inclined to hide my messages behind them.”

“At the moment my focus is split between Zine Swap #4 // PAPER CUTS and my postgrad in Art History. My Zombie Queen zine swaps have been moving around amazing Adelaide venues and this time will be at the Producers’ Bar with 40 Adelaide artists (and non-artists) and live music and DJ sets.

I will have an artist residency at Nexus Arts Centre later this year as a ‘Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Artist’ and am also saving my dollars to set up an international base for Adelaide artists in mid-2017… watch this space.”


When it’s come to furthering her own artistic direction, experimenting with styles and pushing the boundary of what might be deemed conventional, Martin’s associated with this particular form of art is as much a cathartic experience as it is an avenue to spread a certain message or messages.

“Visual art is so amazing to me because you can’t escape it, you can’t ignore posters, pictures on your newsfeed, spending time scrolling through Instagram – everyone can connect with it, whether they understand why or not. Making art is also a bit of a cathartic experience for me and really helps me understand things, work through emotions and share feelings with others.”

To find out more about Zombie Queen, head HERE

Header image by Bathsheba Abbey.


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