Deweer Gallery, Otegem, Belgium, 06.02 - 10.03.2019


The seventh solo exhibition of Spanish artist Enrique Marty (b. 1969, Salamanca, Spain) at Deweer Gallery 'All your World is Pointless' takes the viewer on an audio-visual trip through the absurdity of human existence and the way in which we ourselves deal with it. Using a wide range of artistic devices, ranging from hyperrealistic puppets, bronze sculptures, paintings, collages and an animated film, Enrique Marty depicts himself, his friends/family as well as figures from history and Greek mythology as tragicomic, symbolic extras in a grotesque epic.

The common thread through 'All your World is Pointless' is an animated film - consisting of a sequence of hundreds of paintings - that is on view in the blackbox. The tableaux are based on Marty's fantasies and are interwoven with his typical self-relativity and surreal humour, with numerous references to psychology, philosophy and literature, but also to mythology, history and cosmology.  It is a work in progress, of which four episodes have already been completed, and which are also included in the animated film. Visitors were presented episode I during Marty's exhibition at Deweer Gallery in 2015, entitled 'Reinterpretada Reinterpreted'.  Continuing from this first instalment, this exhibition presents a selection of paintings from episodes II, III and IV. There is no clear separation between the episodes, except that episode III focuses on childhood, specifically the age between three and six, a period that is formative in the construction of a person's personality.

In addition, Enrique Marty has created three new puppets, all of which are self-portraits. The Spanish artist has portrayed himself successively as a cowboy, a ventriloquist's puppet and a King Child. The physiognomic similarities between the puppets and the artist are striking. The faces are hybrids, composites of the face of the artist in 2018 and his facial features as a baby/child. He took inspiration from the representation of Jesus as a baby/child, who throughout art history is portrayed with adult features, often both physically (in extreme cases sometimes even with facial hair) and in terms of personality (the dignity, knowledge and wisdom of an adult). For the first time, Marty experimented with silicone for the faces and limbs of the puppets. This makes that their 'skin' feels soft and lifelike.

In his self-portrait as a cowboy, Enrique Marty portrays himself, sitting on a rocking horse, as an archetypal hero, sensitive and tough. Attached to his weapon is a flag, reminiscent of the banner of the Nazi Party. His flag, however, does not present a swastika, but rather the mirrored word 'GOD' (on the right side) and 'DOG' (on the left side). The artist also portrayed himself as a playful, movable ventriloquist's puppet. In so doing, the artist refers to his childhood and how he acted as his mother's mouthpiece. His self-portrait as a King Child finally depicts a little baby Jesus portrayed as a king. Here, Marty presents his own interpretation/reading of Stephan Balkenhol's wooden sculpture 'Babyking'. For the German artist, the pedestal is an integral part of the sculpture. In analogy with Balkenhol, Marty also uses a pedestal in this work, more specifically a brightly coloured wooden replica made by a carpenter, based on a 700-year old pedestal.

Changing roles

The work of Enrique Marty manifests a deep reflection on the human condition. In the morning, one might, for example, be a king, in the afternoon a ventriloquist's puppet and in the evening a cowboy. The thought that there may be an 'I', in other words, a personal identity that continuously remains the same, is untenable. This idea also immediately calls into question the concept of 'authenticity'. This changing of roles is, for instance, highly present in people who want to change their gender, race, ethnicity or even age.

Observer/observed

An undercurrent/obsession in the works of Enrique Marty is the relationship between the observer and the observed. The basis of this obsession originates in an anecdote: a man who is observing - and possibly also judging - an obese, strangely dressed man in a train, is simultaneously observed and judged by Enrique Marty, who ultimately notices that he too is being observed. In short, people looking at others and making their own judgment based on their own perspective. In Marty's intense universe, it all comes together, in a melting pot filled with dreams, melodrama and exaggeration.

© Sofie Crabbé

Donation

S.M.A.K. recently accepted a donation of Enrique Marty to their permanent collection, more specific the moving, socially critical installation Lonely Stalker. The work is a ghostly pop-up city that includes various puppets/objects. Lonely Stalker has already been shown at various locations in Belgium and abroad. The S.M.A.K. also has plans to exhibit this work in the future.

Bio

Enrique Marty’s unique approach attracted great attention for the first time in Spain with his solo show ‘La Familia’ in Espacio Uno, the then space for young art of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid (2001). In 2004, curator Harald Szeemann selected him for ‘The Real Royal Trip’. The exhibition travelled from PS1 New York to the Museo Patio Herreriano in Valladolid. In 2001 and 2005 Marty participated at the Biennial of Venice. Marty became one of the most outstanding personalities in Spanish contemporary art, which led to a sensational solo exhibition in the MUSAC in León (2006): ‘Flaschengeist / La Caseta del alemán’ (curator Rafael Doctor Roncero). Shortly afterwards, Enrique Marty was first shown, still in 2006, in Belgium by Deweer Gallery, with the solo show ‘Aim at the Brood!’. Institutional solo exhibitions followed at the GEM / Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, the Netherlands (2008), the Kunsthalle Mannheim (2010), and the Fundacion Antonio Perez in Cuenca, Spain (2010), in CCEBA Buenos Aires, Argentina (2013), in Atelier Bouwmeester, Brussels (2014), in het Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, Spain (2014), in CCEC, Córdoba, Argentina (2014), in Toronto, Canada (2016) and in BuBox, Kortrijk (2017), among others. Parallel, five solo exhibitions took place at Deweer Gallery (2008, 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2017). Group exhibitions: Enrique Marty was selected for the exhibition on Spanish post-war art ‘Spain. 1957-2007’ (Palazzo Sant’Elia, Palermo, Italy, 2008), for ‘L’Art en Europe’ (Domaine Pommery, Reims, France, 2008), for ‘Spanish Video Art’ (ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2008) and for ‘Hareng Saur - Ensor and Contemporary Art’ (S.M.A.K. and Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, 2010), among others. In 2011, he took part in the group exhibition ‘GOLDMINE’, with works from the collection of Sirje and Michael Gold, at CSULB, Long Beach, USA. He also participated in group exhibitions including ‘Middle Gate Geel ’13’, on various locations in Geel (2013), MOT- Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2014), in La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain (2016) (curator Rafael Doctor Roncero), Mu.ZEE, Oostende (2017) and De Mesdag Collectie, Den Haag, the Netherlands (2018), among others.

In the lobby there are sculptures and works on paper (mixed media) that Enrique Marty realized for the group exhibition 'Het Vlot. Kunst is (niet) eenzaam / The Raft. Art is (not) Lonely' that took place in Ostend in Autumn 2017/ Spring 2018. On the occasion of this exhibition, artist liaison Sofie Crabbé interviewed Enrique Marty. The interview below is published in the catalogue of 'Het Vlot'.

How does your new work engage in a dialogue with Ostend?

Enrique Marty: I began to investigate the history of Ostend. I have always been attracted by history in every sense of the word: from art history to world history and individual history. For this project, I made paintings and sculptures borrowing from the work of the Ostend artistic symbol James Ensor, more specifically his bizarre subject matters such as burlesque, satirical performers, clowns or fighting skeletons. My work also nods to hidden narratives, such as the siege of Ostend. Being a Spanish artist, I did research on the sustained assaults that reduced Ostend’s strength and finally caused its capitulationto the Spanish forces under general Ambrosio Spínola in 1604. Described as a ‘long carnival of death’, the siege lasted an exhausting three years and took place at sea, which connects with the theme of The Raft. Art is (not) lonely. 

The siege ruined Ostend and, considering the financial crisis that emerged in its wake, also Spain. I used this idea in a painting in which the Greek mythological figure Daedalus is showing a labyrinth to a friendly minotaur-looking goat. This obviously alludes to to the myth of Daedalus who built the labyrinth of Knossos for King Minos, to imprison the Minotaur. The labyrinth is a metaphor. It cannot lead to a proper way out.

The besieged city of Ostend also reminds me of the Dutch city of Breda which the Grand Duke of Albaoccupied in 1567. Later, in 1624, upon the orders of Spínola, Breda was sieged as well. Both the GrandDuke of Alba and Spínola are recurring figures in my paintings for The Raft. Art is (not) lonely. I also explored archival imagery such as anonymous paintings of Ostend in the 17th century, which were recuperated in some of my paintings.

Your paintings often appear to be sketches which you translate - at a later stage - into sculptures?

My paintings help me to concretize my thoughts. For The Raft. Art is (not) lonely, four paintings were made into sculptures. For example the painting of a monument to celebrate the Grand Duke of Alba. Striking in this work is his squatting position. I intentionally chose not to portray him in a heroic pose. I’m attracted to the etymological allusion to squatters that illegally occupy houses. There is a symbolic wink to the occupation of Breda. 

In another allegoric sculpture, you see a monument of a greedy, heroic-looking Ambrosio Spínola  eating a cock’s leg. It is an ironic reference to his military victories in Ostend. To me, he is not a serious character. He even organized a dinner with Ostend militaries to show his “mercy”. It reminds me of the fable of the fox and the cock, which I sculpted as well. The fox, symbolizing Spínola, is the crafty enemy, hungrily looking at the cock, symbolizing Ostend, in the tree.

How does your work - almost 200 years later - relate to Théodore Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa?

I have been creating a metaphorical world around the main theme of The Raft. From painterly allusions such as Ostend depicted as a labyrinth or a raft surrounded by a menacing ocean, to more literal references such as a painting of the upper part of Géricault’s composition. The personages have been replaced by Spanish militaries in typical armors and hats. They are lost in the middle of the ocean. 

In another work, these same soldiers are pictured as fools, commenting on the human stupidity and absurdity, especially during wars. They are surrounded by animals like a goat, a monkey and rats. There is no captain on board. It looks as if the ship is going to sink. The work brings up the painting Ship of Fools by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, as well as Ensor’s work. I also painted the Duke of Alba standing in a ridiculous-looking heroic pose on a burning, sinking ship.

The sea scares me. I experience it as a deep, dark mass of moving water with hostile, treacherous animals living below the surface. The sea appeared in one of my scariest nightmares ever. Therefore, I find a painting like The Raft very scary. In a painting you see a smiling, king Philip III, known for his mental illness, riding a horse in the middle of the sea, totally ignoring the fact that soon he will drown. In the background you can see the skyline of a blurred city that might be Ostend.

My work is always a trip into our minds, it is a melting pot of dreams, fears, exaggerations, dramas and epic fails.


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