Inspired by a recent visit to Gstaad, Bernhard Martin’s new work reconstructs the idyllic terrain of chalets and cuckoo clocks with the strangeness of dreams. Through his portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes, Martin fabricates contingent spaces of reverie where the jetsam of everyday life washes up, slightly damaged, confused and soaked through with the disturbing stuff of the subconscious.
Mapping out a surreal reflection of modern mythology, Martin’s paintings filter the chintz of mass media and the artificial allure of tourism through an enduring and timeless reference to art history. Treating all as equally meaningful and synthetic, each canvas operates as a zone of convergence where visual language gains momentum through its painterly translation. Rococo prettiness, brutal expressionism, and mannered realism sit comfortably and indistinguishable from carefully reproduced computer graphics, chocolate box schmaltz and kitsch iconography.
Setting up this transaction of stylistic exchange, Martin’s paintings recode the familiar as bizarre, grotesque, and humorously aberrant. Creating suggestive narratives from their visual and psychological tension, souvenirs are rendered with haunted house ghoulishness, bucolic tableaux loom with gothic fairytale threat, and nonsensical still-lifes refract the absurdity of their composition. Disquietingly elevating the ephemera of pop into the realm of painterly enchantment, Martin blurs the boundaries between high and low culture, creating new possibilities for interpretation and value.
Using many of the pictorial devices found in his paintings, Martin’s sculptures create spatial and referential distortion through their eclectic materiality. Infused by a sense of drama and play, Martin’s life-sized architectures envision a ground between reality, illusion, and fantasy, theatrically placing the viewer as both viewer and participant in their topsy-turvy realm. For Brennholz + Ravioli, Martin has created a new work comprised of cuckoo clocks, thematically linking to his paintings.
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