Edgar Martins, Failure to Lauch, from the series The Rate of Convergence of Two Opposing System Trajectories, 2009
Opening 24 May | 10 pm
metaphotography as crime scene
The photographs of Edgar Martins (Évora, 1977) go beyond the mere image and referent on which they are based.
By becoming reflexive and self-critical, they escape the scope of the purely photographic without relinquishing its essence. We can consider them to exist in a hybrid terrain, with affinities not only to painting (apparent in the idea of tableaux and the importance that he grants to composition) but also, to cinema (plateaux) and even to sculpture, through the way in which they establish themselves as images-objects. This last characteristic causes them to resemble characters in a quasi-absurd or nonsensical narrative and recalls the ready-mades of the Dadaists and Surrealists. The elements of the bizarre that we discover in these images (in which humans and animals rarely appear) are proof of this theory, helping to establish a sense of distance in the observer, who distrusts what he sees but surrenders to it through a sort of suspension of disbelief (Coleridge) that raises questions in his mind: "Is this a real place or one fabricated by the artist? Could we be immersed in an F for Fake kind of world?"
In their contemporary relevance, these images correspond to what G. Lipovetsky predicted would be the era of screen culture, in which images can be defined according to three broad categories ranging from image-excess to imagemultiplex and image-distance, playing on the logic of special effects; in a style that is almost baroque, simulacral, hyper-real, in which the screen pervades everything. Edgar Martins' images are therefore a crime scene in which reality is the victim and everyone is trying to establish when, how and by whom the murder was committed (as in a game of Cluedo). Besides playing the role of a forensics specialist, the artist is also a visual archaeologist who brings the finds and ruins of the contemporary to the light of day.
The theatricality and artificiality of these images, which oscillate between the real and the imaginary, bring them closer to the notion of the fantastic via a certain familiar strangeness that imbues the episode in front of us with suspense. Rather than being random images, chosen according to chance, they stem from a process of conceptual idealization undertaken by the artist, who, like a scientist, makes a prior and careful study of the arrangement of the elements, which are placed in a highly elaborate compositive order.
In a tradition associated with topographic photography, the locations depicted by Edgar Martins are places that are not yet places, populated by floating signifiers. That is, they are places which are open to a multiplicity of meanings, to an infinite possibility which is not contained by the physical boundaries of the image. The mind thereby uncovers the structure of the world, which at times is revealed in excesses of meaning so that we may better understand it. The work of art is thus transformed into a language through which we are able to access reality, reinventing it as if it were a remake. The fixity is therefore only apparent, the result of the fact that one of photography's functions is to crystallize time and the world. Otherwise, through the doubts that they awaken and the associations that they suggest, the images impart a dynamic of thought that sets them in motion, forcing us to reflect on the world around us.
Carla de Utra Mendes
Edgar Martins was born in Évora (1977) and grew up in Macau (China). In 1996 he moved to the UK, where he later completed an MA in Photography and Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (London). His first book - Black Holes & Other Inconsistencies - was awarded the Thames & Hudson and RCA Society Book Art Prize.
A selection of images from this book was also awarded the Jerwood Photography Award in 2003. His works have been exhibited internationally at institutions such as PS1 MoMA (New York), Centro Cultural Hélio Oiticica (Rio de Janeiro), the New Art Gallery Walsall (Walsall, UK), and the Wapping Project (London), among many others.
In 2010, the Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian (Paris) hosted his first retrospective exhibition. Edgar Martins was the recipient of the inaugural New York Photography Award (Fine Art category) in May 2008. In 2009 he was also awarded the prestigious BES Photo Prize (Portugal), as well as a SONY World Photography Award (Landscape category). More recently, Edgar Martins won first prize in the Fine Art - Abstract category of the 2010 International Photography Awards and was also nominated for the Prix Pictet 2009. The artist was selected to represent Macau (China) at the 54th Venice Biennale. Edgar Martins works and lives in the UK.
Edgar Martins' art is represented is several private and public collections, including BESart - Colecção Banco Espírito Santo, Portugal; Colecção Fundação EDP, Portugal; Fundação PLMJ, Portugal; Colecção CAM - Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Portugal; Colecção Santo SGPS, Portugal; Colecção António Cachola, Portugal; the Victoria and Albert Museum, United Kingdom; the National Media Museum, United Kingdom; the Dallas Museum of Art, USA; Fondation Carminac, France; the Howard Stein Collection, USA; the Ballymore Group Collection, United Kingdom; Colección Vega, Spain.