Caught in the Landslide
by Nicole Rodriguez
Rhapsodie, Jérémie Martino’s latest solo show at Berlin’s Freies Museum, revolves around the series Moments de Détente dans la Vie d’un Peintre — a collection of viscerally rendered, semi-abstracted paintings of explosions. Capturing the seconds after a blast and the inevitability of the fall, French Berlin-based artist Martino depicts a wide range of explosions that vary in scale, unified by the softened, harmonious, almost lyrically mature use of color and subtly precise painterly techniques. Neither scrawling gesture nor photorealism are employed to convey this dynamic subject. Rather, he approaches the topic by aiming squarely between a structural and an intuitively expressive definition.
The musical component of the work — alluded to in the title and skirted about in the exhibition text — is an integral element to the experience of the exhibition. The collection’s larger works Moments de Détente dans la Vie d’un Peintre (1-7) present themselves as a single extended movement. The intermittent placement of several Petits Moments — identical in content and execution as the first set but significantly smaller and more detailed (a waft of sand, a few details of rocks) — introduces crescendos and decrescendos to the exhibition hall. The compact grouping of six untitled charcoal works on paper, similar yet more stark, bare and more loosely expressive, quicken the beat in the room leading the eye through the oeuvre. Together, the components work harmoniously to achieve a percussive effect.
Differentiating itself from Martino’s previous work in series like Les Explosions, where architectural and mechanical demolitions are portrayed mid-blast within a landscape to anchor them, Moments invites participation without any promise of revealing damage. Whatever subject presumably hiding behind the curtain of debris is doomed to be obfuscated forever. The action of the blast — the moment of creation and destruction — takes center stage. Persisting exclusively is temperamental action — labor rather than product — set into motion by an event that remains unknown to the viewer. It is definitively a verb as opposed to a noun that seizes complete control of the situation before you. When taken in broadly, their gestalt effect inspires moments that threaten revelation of a more concrete and objective subject matter, but these instances merely flirt at disclosure and never exceed beyond a hint. The effects of the action are denied and the viewer is left with an unnatural ability to sumptuously drink in the beauty of destructive force without the burden of consequence.