Kris Martin’s sculptures, photographs, and installations reflect his preoccupation with the great themes of human existence and its contradictions. The oeuvre of the artist, who was born in Belgium in 1972, examines the passing of time from a variety of angles, often contrasting the distinctive pace of individual life with an abstract vision of global continuity.
Martin’s own life and experience are the ultimate source from which most of his equally poetic and symbolic images and objects flow. Yet his art retains an openness that appeals to the viewer and inspires personal reflections.
He often works with found materials, making minor alterations or additions to effect shifts of meaning, modifications that charge the objects with narrative as well as metaphorical potential. “Ad Valvas,” for example, consists of a bronze cast of a notice board once situated outside a church. Here, however, it is empty; the object’s uselessness is emphasized by its transformation into a precious material. A symbol of communication (“Ad Valvas” meaning “on the notice board”) is recast as an emblem of silence, though the object remains profoundly ambivalent.
The conceptual rigor of creations such as “Ad Valvas” is crucial to the quietly haunting quality of Kris Martin’s work, which leaves a powerful and lasting impression on the viewer.A similar effect is palpable in “One Year,” for which the artist blended over a hundred individual shots of burning candles taken over the course of a year into a single photographic image: the superimposition of picture upon picture has eventually blurred the motif beyond recognition, resulting in an apparition of pure light. The work elevates the associations of mortality and evanescence prompted by the candle, a traditional memento mori, to an abstract dimension.
Where “One Year” thus gestures toward a realm beyond human imagination, “Cross” spotlights a much more earthly concern. Martin cut ordinary crossword puzzles out of newspapers but forwent the clues to be solved and instead entered the one answer that, to his mind, always fits: he filled the rows and columns with repetitions of a single unchanging word in black pen—“Idiot,” an allusion to the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Strikingly simple and highly complex at the same time, the piece reprises the prominent “Idiot” series Martin began in 2005, in which he offered humorous reflections on the artist’s role in society and, by extension, a speculative meditation on the fundamental questions of human existence.