Duration07 March 2020 to 30 August 2020
Opening HoursTue–Fri 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sat & Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Telephone+32 (0)9 323 60 01
|Title||EXIT||Posted In||Installation||Duration||07 March 2020 to 30 August 2020|
|Venue||S.M.A.K.||Opening Hours||Tue–Fri 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Sat & Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.||Location||
1 Jan Hoetplein
|Telephone||+32 (0)9 323 60 01|
Belgian artist Kris Martin has been exploring the uncertainty of the human condition, the passing of time, and our relationship with ideas of faith for twenty years now, with numerous exhibitions at international museums under his belt, so his first retrospective in his native Belgium at S.M.A.K. in Ghent is long overdue. Playfully titled “EXIT”, the exhibition showcases Martin’s penchant for wittily re-contextualizing familiar objects with an almost childlike simplicity to produce new meanings as well as his talent for weaving art history, literature and myths into his work.
Perhaps the work that most fittingly encapsulates Martin’s subversive ethos and conceptual rigour is “Idiot”, a 1496-page long, hand-written copy of The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky where the name of the book’s hero, Myshkin, is substituted by the artist’s own name. Taking several months to replicate, the artist in effect emulated Myshkin’s quest for spiritual transformation casting himself literarily and literaly as the idiot.
Martin’s critical eye and keen humour are in full display in his “Mandi” sculpture series whose name comes from a colloquial Italian term for goodbye. “Mandi III” is a blank train arrivals-and-departures board that turns over endlessly without offering any information, “Mandi XV” is a larger-than-life medieval cruciform sword, while “Mandi VIII” is a replica of one of the most famous ancient sculptures, namely Laocoön and His Sons, albeit with the attacking sea serpents missing, an omission that asks viewers to fill in what the three figures are fighting against.
The act of omission, and by extension the artist’s encouragement to use your imagination, is also the key concept behind Martin’s sculpture “Altar”, a hollow replica of the multi-panelled, 15th century Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck originally installed in 2014 on the beach at Ostend and now standing in front of Ghent’s St. Bravo cathedral. By omitting the painted panels, Martin invites us to look at the surrounding world much like the Van Eyck brothers’ intention which was to reveal nature and mankind in all their detail. Martin’s fascination with the Ghent Altarpiece is also attested in “Eve and Adam” where he makes us look at the artwork’s eponymous figures in a new way by making them face away from each other.
For his installation “Festum”, the Latin word for festival, thousands of tiny bronze discs cover the floor alluding to paper confetti that is traditionally thrown at weddings, parades or other moments of collective celebration. The artwork’s ephemeral, constantly shifting appearance is contradicted by the solidity and permanence of its material. In a nearby gallery, visitors encounter a marooned hot air balloon playfully titled “T.Y.F.F.S.H”—an acronym for ‘Thank you for flying Sies + Höke’ which alludes to the Düsseldorf’s Sies + Höke gallery where the installation was originally displayed in 2011—while the much, much smaller “Bee” perfectly encapsulates the wide range of the artist’s poetic gestures that extend all the way from the intimate to the grand.