Deweer Gallery, Otegem, Belgium, 29.03 - 21.05.2017

 

The Spanish artist Enrique Marty (b. 1969) filled the spaces of Deweer Gallery already five times with his remarkable sculptures, paintings and animation films. For this, his sixth exhibition 'Sense of Failure' he continues to portray himself and his friends/family as tragicomic symbolic extras in a grotesque epic.

 

The driving force of desire is the major theme that runs through the exhibition. According to Marty, desire is perhaps the most universal, most important emotion, but also the most dangerous. It is one of the major driving forces that can easily lead to failure and frustration.

 

The eye-catcher in 'Sense of Failure' is the gigantic installation with two walls filled with 2,200 small watercolor paintings. An animated film shows the sequence of these thousands of little tableaus. Particularly remarkable are the numerous, ambiguous symbols, such as, for instance, a crow, a black cat, a snake, shadows, ghosts, concentration camps and conical pointed hats. The latter are reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan, processions held during the Spanish Holy Week, or the punishment of heretics during the Inquisition. Symbols are culturally determined. In Marty's world they are obscure and dark, but also attractive. "Beauty and ugliness are symbols created by our imagination and are derived from our upbringing," says Enrique Marty. Damned souls and failure are omnipresent in the animated film as well. Take, for instance, the depiction of the Toronto skyline. Here, it is not the city as such that is important, but the futile attempts of one of Marty's nephews to move to Toronto, and especially the irony of this story with which we can identify.

 

The strength of Marty's art lies in the subdued references to literature, mythology, psychology, philosophy, religion, history and anthropology. Unlike his previous exhibits, this exhibition contains direct references to myths (such as the kidnapping of Europe), mythological figures (just think of Lucifer, Prometheus, Atlas and sphinxes) and mythological gods (such as Bacchus, Pan, Eros and Thanatos). Here and there, Marty also hints at legends (Saint George and the Dragon), cult films (such as the silent French science fiction film ‘Le voyage dans la lune’ (1902), a self-portrait of sorts of one of the founders of cinema, Méliès) and Biblical stories (the flight of Joseph and Mary to Egypt). The artist's fascination with classical and baroque art is also quite evident. Marty grew up amidst paintings of the Flemish painter Rubens and Spanish masters such as Goya and Velázquez. In 'Sense of Failure' the presence of Rubens is a constant. Marty appropriated the technique, the color palette and the iconography of this Baroque painter. Remarkable also is Marty's use of Rubens' smooth, sensual brushstrokes in the creation of his 100 small paintings. The artist depicts simple landscapes and narrative scenes, such as myths and legends. The works are meaningful metaphors that often compel the viewer to reflect on his own behavior.

 

In this exhibition, Marty also made use of an entirely new process. For his 25 failed paintings, he crumpled the canvas before painting on it. The depicted scenes are very diverse and include images such as his obese, apathetic friend Luis “strangling a parrot" (slang for drinking the spirituous liquor absinthe), or getting dressed up like Bacchus, or a picture of a rocket in the eye of the moon (a reference to ‘Le voyage dans la lune’).

 

Entirely in line with his paintings, Marty also made a dozen intriguing dolls based on molds of real people. The sculptures attest to the unbridled imagination of the artist. Particularly eye catching are the character faces in traditional 17th century costumes, an image of the Greek god Pan and a work of a sphinx for which his wife Carmen posed. Some dolls are downright funny, like the self-portrait of Marty with a giant head made of cork. The double sculpture of two football players of the Spanish national football team, entitled 'Eros' and 'Thanatos', on the other hand, is quite unsettling. The footballers presented here are no modern idols or contemporary gladiators or demigods. Marty turned them into "failed beings". Their faces remind of the monster created by Frankenstein, also called the modern Prometheus. The basic line in the story of Frankenstein and Prometheus is the doomed failure of those who challenge God by wanting to create life. For in the end, they create monsters.

 

Another failed character is the rocker Robert Perdut. This fifty-year old plans to release his first album. Marty made four large photo-realistic paintings of the failed rock 'n' roller. With his wild hair and hollow cheeks, dressed in a leather jacket and shabby, pointy boots, he is most reminiscent of the legendary British front man of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger. Robert Perdut pretends to be Jesus Christ. In his right hand he holds his heart, also called the "Sacred Heart of Christ". The paintings of Robert Perdut will be used for the cover of his first vinyl record. The close-up pictures of his boots for the A and B sides of the record.

 

Whether looking at Marty's paintings, animation films or sculptures, we always have the impression of looking at a homogeneous universe. A melting pot of dreams, fears, exaggerations, dramas and epic fails. A world full of unanswered questions. A trip into our own minds where some inadequacy is allowed.

 

***

 

Enrique Marty's unique approach first came to attention in Spain with his solo show 'La Familia' in the Espacio Uno, the then space for young artists of the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid (2001). In 2004, he was selected by curator Harald Szeemann for ‘The Real Royal Trip'. In 2001 and 2005, Marty participated in the Venice Biennial. Marty became one of the most outstanding personalities in Spanish contemporary art, which was evidenced in the high-profile solo at the MUSAC in Leon, in 2006: 'Flaschengeist / La Caseta del Alemán’. Shortly afterwards, still in 2006, Enrique Marty was first presented in Belgium by Deweer Gallery with the solo 'Aim at the Brood!'. This collaboration lead to institutional solos at the GEM/ Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (2008), the Kunsthalle Mannheim (2010) and the Fundacion Antonio Perez in Cuenca, Spain (2011), in the Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid (2014), in Toronto, Canada (2016) en in BUBOX, Kortrijk (2017). Parallel there were four solo exhibitions at Deweer (2008, 2010, 2013 and 2015). Marty also participated in group shows in SMAK, Ghent (2010), ‘Middle Gate Geel ’13’, at different locations in Geel (2013) and in MOT- Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (2014).


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