September 9, 2023 - October 20, 2023
Martin Werthmann, in his unique work, masterfully illustrates the intricate interplay between beauty and violence, chaos and order as central aspects of human existence. His monumental woodcuts, installations, and sculptures are deliberately conceived as spaces of experience and resonance, designed to evoke two opposing fundamental sensations: the simultaneous perception of threat and beauty.
When facing his predominantly large-scale works, viewers are irresistibly drawn into the visual event or space, thanks to their overwhelming aesthetics and immense suggestive power. Observers find themselves immersed in a genuine cosmos of complex color structures, fields, and layers, held together at its core by a diaphanous structure. This "diaphanous" quality, the translucent, melds spaces and surfaces, blurs boundaries, and softens textures, defining space through space and light. This transcendent spatial experience is characteristic of Werthmann's works and leads to a synthesis between the image and the viewer's space. Werthmann constructs precisely engineered "spaces without concrete content" that offer viewers a spectrum of meaningful, sensory experiences, thereby making them aware of their own humanity.
The foundation of his large-scale, abstract color woodcuts lies in press photographs of attacks, wars, and other tragedies caused by humans in places such as Beirut, Aleppo, Kobane, Narathiwat, and Tianjin. Werthmann transfers these documented acts of violence onto wooden blocks and prints them in multiple layers on paper, often in conjunction with everyday motifs like landscapes or water surfaces. Nearly erased in terms of their motifs, only rudimentary structures and elements are discernible in the final work, merging into a spatially oriented event. For Werthmann, the focus is not on the "classical," perspective-driven space but on space as a sensual experience, where human existence in all its facets is expressed.
In his new series, "Fractions," exhibited for the first time in this collection, which both thematically and formally builds upon his extensive "Silence" series, viewers confront a new spatial concept characterized by discontinuities in the form of abruptly appearing black surfaces, the eponymous "Fractions." At these points, space seems fractured and pushed into the plane. What was once barely perceptibly intertwined in its depths now becomes distinctly visible in these areas. Architectural elements emerge alongside vapor-like formations and pieces of automobiles from the shimmering depths of the image space. Sometimes vague, sometimes unmistakable, they allude to the deeper layers of the image, to the concealed and the non-obvious.
In contrast, the all-encompassing, monochromatic sculptures stand apart. Unlike the woodcuts, they do not rely on photographic references and thus have no historical connections. Titled "Shock Waves," these sculptures depict stylized explosions that, through their transparency, emphasize the space surrounding them, also provoking a "melding" of image and viewer space. In contrast to the ambivalent, tension-filled aesthetics of the woodcuts, the sculptures appear remarkably contemplative, considering the true nature of what they represent. Through abstracted forms, Werthmann directs attention to the aesthetic forces at play during an explosion, in addition to the physical ones. These forces are a part of the overall impact of these catastrophes, which extend beyond their devastating effects on location to have a propagandistic, and thus political, impact through images. The artist deliberately navigates a zone between beauty and horror, where the boundaries between disgust and fascination - or between representation and what is represented - blur. He is interested in the "moment of truth in the catastrophe," where two incompatible orders and a sense of equilibrium collide and react, ultimately releasing their fate in a thousandth of a second. Thus, the focus is on a hidden truth that emerges from the inner logic of the catastrophe and the accompanying dialectic of beauty and horror.
Martin Werthmann (born 1982, lives and works in Berlin) is one of the most prominent artists of his generation to devote themselves to the genre of woodblock printing. Between 2004 and 2009, he studied with Andreas Slominski at the Academy of Fine Arts Hamburg. He has also studied with Wim Wenders, Fatih Akin and Daniel Richter. On the surface, Werthmann’s works are an aesthetically engaging series of patterns and textures. Yet, with more investigation, the images under the surface reveal a tension and subtle melancholy. The motifs and patterns in his prints are created from found images of tragic events such as car accidents and car bomb explosions juxtaposed with mundane elements like picturesque landscapes and water surfaces. Aside from the pure aesthetic interest, he is drawn to photos of catastrophic events because they represent moments that break daily routines and disrupt society. His monumental colour woodblock prints on vast lengths of paper are captivating in their radically new use of forms as well as an aesthetic that puts the vague and the diffuse centre stage.
08.09.2023 - 20.10.2023
Türkenstr. 32, 80335 Munich