Art Case Martek

Vlado Martek


On the occasion of the exhibition "Art Case Martek"

Acting in the interspace of various art disciplines for decades, using the margins and fringes of otherwise traditional techniques, expressing himself by an unusual combination of visual and verbal signs (but reckoning with their hypertrophy and their asceticism), Vlado Martek created an indisputably convincing individual micro-universum, realized a very interesting version of critical rethinking of the status of art, and, in his own way, expressed resistance and indifference towards the world in which he lives and works. He entered the framework of the so-called visual art creation from the position of a poet discontented exactly with the framework of his medium. The need to expand the poetic field, through the experiences of diverse avant-garde and experimental procedures, has led him to developing of an awareness about the material factors of writing, to recognizing of the limiting social premises of acting, to breaking down the conventions and to the auto reflexive reflection of a creative act. With continuing interest in poetry, and even persistent poetic practice, he intensified his own position by establishing the concept of a pre-poet and a post-poet, as a seemingly more modest - but certainly a more radical, corrosive - associate in poetic work.
But, the place of Vlado Martek was already well mapped and historically situated within the so-called new artistic practice, various tendencies and movements that thoroughly changed the face of visual art-plastic or creative-ethical horizon in our midst by the end of the seventies, the beginning of the eighties. The basic incentives came from the conceptual understanding of the crisis of shaping, from the comportamentist dictate of the need for more direct action, but Vlado Martek immediately introduced some positive achievements of the modern tradition into that general context too, primarily of Dadaism and Surrealism, then, Futurism and Suprematism, and even a kind of expressionism (including Kafka). He did not do that due to the desire for easy finding of home or concealing under the skirts of the authority, but for the purpose of establishing and continuing a dialogue of restless spirits, a certain continuity of the freedom, non-dogmatic, oneiric, ludic, mental, metamedia line of creation.
Without retrospective-monographic pretensions, with a rather small number of exhibits, by the exhibition in the "Kula" Gallery, Vlado Martek presents himself as an artist of the widest problem ranges and most diverse emanations or concretizations, crystallizations of experience, feelings and ideas. By moving in a true nomadic manner through the materials and techniques, forms and communication channels, he manifests utter openness and elasticity of his relationship towards art. For him, of course, art is not a mastered skill, but posing of questions, setting of challenges, action, always anew. His understanding of art rather understands deliberation, however, not as an absurd action, but as a search for the sense and the reason to leave traces, as keeping a diary of existential wandering.
At the exhibition in the obligatory space of the firm geometry of an antique palace, Vlado Martek offers a sort of a collection of samples, one sample of a work in almost all disciplines and techniques (about fifteen of them) he was and is engaged in. Thus, he presents himself as a sketcher, painter, graphic artist, sculptor, collagist, assemblage artist, photographer, but also as a poet, creator of an author's book and samizdat publications, a critical text and a poetic object, agitation, flier and “pure” conceptual stimulus. Thus, "Art Case Martek" offers for checking a complex workshop of a creator of an unusual originality and simplicity, bareness and straightforwardness. In spite of the erudite premises and somewhat neo-mannerist incubation, by intertextuality and auto-referentiality, Martek manages to reconcile the extremities in the manner of the Columbus’s egg and children’s mouth, i.e. to find an efficient shortcut and the most effective abbreviation of an elementary solution.
Let’s leave aside narrower poetic reaches and results (partly fixated within traditional book covers, partly manifested in issues and publications with unorthodox qualities), but let’s not forget that he refers to such differentiated models as Rimbaud and Kamov, or Larkin and T. P. Marović – in any case, on authors with the most fervent affectiveness and most maladjusted, untamed expression. We mention this because, in the visual art plan, he also strives for a maximally direct expression, for a strong gesture, contrast and confrontation or conflict and juxtaposition of the selected elements (of a borderline elementarity themselves). Most often, he uses raw materials (wire, clay, chips of mirror, pieces of fabric), objects found earlier in time (l'objet trouvé), which he occasionally puts into a paradoxal or absurd context (just as in a Lautreamont quote). His chromatics are reduced to red and black, black and white. His iconic images are most readily made of little men and fetuses (as silhouettes), geographic maps and traffic signs, coats of arms and symbols of various origin, always with meanings changed by inscriptions. The former exhibition entitled "Troubles with Contents" excellently explicates his intentions, which does not mean that, in his way - ironically and with quotations, periphrastically and antinomically - he did not manage to respond to most diverse intimate and collective motivations by his works.
Intentional pungency and harshness of materials and forms makes Martek's visual art constellations authentic at the level of pure presence, an act which cares more about an ethical influence than about an esthetic pleasure. His probably best interpreter, friend and ideal fellow-traveler, Antun Maračić, wrote a long time ago: "Whether read under the quotation marks, or literally, Martek is maybe the only true 'Wilde'-painter in our visual art climate. That need not mean either a compliment, or mockery: that is simply an attribute which, along with the comparison with the 'original' (the term, as is known, is connected with new German expressionism), also includes emphasizing of the specific qualities of the domestic milieu, which Martek more then represents in many aspects, as well as the author's individuality". If it was still necessary to set his work in the context of actuality and recognizable parallelisms in the eighties, today we should dare to conclude that it tolerates no chronological and typological determinants, but uses all the resources of associativity and all the benefits of resourcefulness very autonomously.
Over twenty years ago, I welcomed a Martek's manifestation, moreover, I wrote on the eve of his exhibition in the "Josip Račić" Gallery – entitled "Before the Exhibition of a Pre-Poet". After a general consideration of the phenomenon and the term by which the author determined his own premises and prerogatives, I tried to determine the relationship of the poetic and visual art aspect (of the component, section, constitutive and formative share) in his opus, endeavouring to keep on levitating in an interspace, so as not to violate the openness and intertwining of the artist's procedures. I concluded the text: "With each new exhibition, Vlado Martek leisurely proves the right to an independent path, where awkwardness of execution and clarity and simplicity of polarizations and (mimetic, materic) confrontations exceptionally match the disassembling of existential, private, diary-type and - moreover - trivially associative strings. A pre-poet maybe need not be a painter, but it is necessarily a handicraftman and a manipulator of contents (still not hardened in shape). Will the last one become the first one, as the Bible says, it is not exactly certain, but, there is no doubt that the predecessor, a pre-poet, is actually an ideal progenitor of the postmodern, post-painting and post-festum spirit of the time - particularly when the millenarism of the end of the century is in question".
At a considerable distance in time, I could repeat some of the then claims, but also add new ones. Since then, Martek's opus has been widely branched and elastically extended in many directions, not having lost anything in the seeming ease and anticipated depth. We could say that he intentionally connected to the "Gorgona" heritage, also not having sacrificed anything from the qualities of melancholy and vivaciousness, gloominess and kidding around, eroticism and contemplation. In any case, to paraphrase myself a little, with each new exhibition, Vlado Martek proves the right to an independent path.

Tonko Maroević


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