In his first commercial exhibition in Berlin since he moved his studio from London to the city in 2014, Bernhard Martin is presenting a new body of work, featuring a series of oil paintings as well as acrylic and colored pencil works on paper.
The subject matter of the paintings is underlined by titles such as Influencer, a portrait of a man with a flute who looks like a storyteller from a fairy tale, or Vague Forms Give A Press Conference and World With Big Cheese. The artist deals with contemporary portraiture, language, current social and political issues, corruption, and absurd media performances, without moralizing, while exercising a sublimely effective genre-crossing of painting styles.
In Disconnected Truths, Bernhard Martin presents pictures snatched from the maelstrom of the spirit of our age. Below, above, yesterday, tomorrow no longer signify. Martin paints the now like it’s never been painted before.#InYourFaceBitch.
We see heaven and hell in color gradients. The toupeed dickhead surrounded by a mountain of files, the praying mantis rubbing its wings. Smoke rising up and writing “Shit” in the air. The lenses of sunglasses reflecting tongues that will touch moments later. Money falling from the bag, a lump of sugar dropping into a coffee heart. Froth. Sponge. Diamonds. Bling! Bling! Cheese. Pussies. Champagne. Pearls. Pills. Oysters. Now can we please fuck?
At first, his pictures are surfaces, awesome entertainment. Aquaria full of ornamental fish and predators. The instant you think you recognize something—a reference to this or that, influencers, 89,000 likes, Trump’s New America, the German government’s press briefing, millennials, you name it—it’s gone. Devoured, chewed up, digested. A great deal in his pictures literally goes up in smoke, in froth, in bubbles. The common denominator of Martin’s pictures is “liquidation.” His is a world of wax that melts away in your hands, that’s no longer tangible, no longer comprehensible. Post-internet neo-retro futurist high-speed acid surrealism on ice—shaken, not stirred.
If you immerse yourself, hold your breath, and pay attention to what you see and taste and smell and feel, you understand that, beneath the instant entertainment surface and the eighties colors and the manic gabbing, Martin has ensconced a timeless quiet that will outlast any zeitgeist. His compositions are classical, Old Masterly, only the characters are back from the future. The details are painted with precision; the chaos exists only in the mind of the beholder. But at bottom this is simply great painting.
The above is an excerpt from #INYOURFACEBITCH, the exhibition essay contributed by Frédéric Schwilden and to be published in the gallery catalogue available this September.
The gallery is also pleased to announce Bernhard Martin’s upcoming solo exhibition at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, titled Image Ballet, opening in March 2020.
Bernhard Martin started his career in the 1980s. He has exhibited widely internationally, with significant institutional solo and group presentations: Berlinische Galerie Museum of Modern Art, Berlin; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Kunsthalle Hamburg; Kunstraum Deutsche Bank, Salzburg; FRAC Île-de-France, Paris; MAMCO Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art ,Geneva; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Arario Museum, Seoul; and PS1 Museum of Modern Art, New York.
His work is part of prestigious public and private collections (selection): Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, New York; and the Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Arario Museum, Seoul; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary—TBA21, Vienna; Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon; FRAC Île-de-France, Paris; Deutsche Bank Art Collection, Frankfurt; The Schaufler Foundation Schauwerk, Sindelfingen; MAMCO, Geneva; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich.