Anybody that approaches the work of Manuel Martí Moreno will easily appreciate how the artist values materials as an essential part of the creation process, a contribution by Constantin Brancusi that would revolutionize sculpting in the last century.
It will also be obvious for the view that, far from adjusting to the historical prototypes, the sculpture disregards all iconographic strictness in the search of certain formal austerity which is strengthened by the use of certain materials like metal mesh or screws, or the clear monochrome with which he covers his finished work.
Likewise it is just to refer to the rhythmic and captivating development of movement, evidenced by a clear preference for gentle rhythms and shapes the slightly oscillate with regard to the symmetry axis, as a basic procedure to break the rigorous bilateral distribution which is the base that prevails in human anatomy, and to provide that contained mobility to which Martí Moreno never renounce in his work.
This same dynamic sense is equally accomplished by using fluctuating lines and smooth undulations of the outlines, as well as with the frequent use of the classic contraposto posture, that provides his figures with notable elegance.
This said, and having justified in a few lines the kind invitation to write a few words, I would like to make a reflection about an aspect of Mari Moreno’s work that seems especially interesting to me. I am referring to his characteristic faces and naked and incomplete bodies. These works are presented very refined, lacking details and with flat expression. Even though taking into account that his truly abstract work is scarce, at least to my own knowledge, the author likes to play with the idea of the contrast between mass and space, a synthesis path where Martí Moreno borders the abstract between simplicity and the magical balance of lines and volumes.
Some time ago I had the immense pleasure of presenting one of Manuel Martí Moreno’s expositions in Castellon. It was then that a common friend, painter Amaury Suárez, showed me resemblance between the work of Martí Moreno and that of the renowned Israeli sculpture Niso Maman. As accurate and incisive as always, Amaury recognized in the work of both artists enough technical control to allow them to seize the curves of the human body through metallic material. With the fascinating contrast between shape and means which allows the possibility to reach a new vision about nudity.
On few occasions does an artist present nudity in the same way as Martí Moreno. And I am not only speaking about bodies, but also of nude faces, or is the face not in itself a fragment of the body?
I am speaking of nudity, more than nudes, and I do so deliberately. I believe that viewing the work of Martí Moreno should part from the consideration that nudity is something more than the simple reality of the body lacking any clothes, something which is related with the same circumstances of social perception and the ideology of the being. With the need to view the reality of the body as a basic problematic of thought focused towards the analysis of human questions.
I am not discovering anything new. Part of this idea was developed by the critic Kenneth Clark in 1953 in a series of six conferences about artistic nudity that took place at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. In some aspects they served me for this brief commentary, especially in they that they point out the difference between two things that seemed the same or, at least, very similar. The fact is that I totally agree with these concepts, Clark asserted that it was not the same to be nude than to be naked. The Spanish language doesn’t have two different words to classify these two states, as opposed to English that, chaste, here has contradicted what Spanish consider lexical scarcity (the naked versus the nude). Be as it may, with Martí Moreno, Clark has been excelled in his purely idealistic and idealized concept of the problem, because there isn’t a better way to show a nude than showing oneself naked (making both the author and the viewer feel this way).
For Clark to be nude is the equivalent to be seen naked by other and, nevertheless, not be recognized as such by one self. In other words, for a naked body to become a nude it is necessary for it to be seen as an object. And seeing it as an object, stimulates using it as an object. But this isn’t so with the sculptures by Martí Moreno, possibly because they don’t reflect classic nudes; it is nudity that reflects itself. Nudeness isn’t exhibited, while being nude is nothing more than another way of dressing.
Let’s get naked as Martí Moreno has done with these works. Or does one not feel naked, unprotected, when one sees the nudity of those bodies? One feels nude when the sculptor cults the modeled bodies as they had been shredded apart and lets the eyes imagine what would have been.
From a more objective point of view, the only thing that we consider in the image of a nude it the way in which this sculpture uses this structural fact that is so implicated in our way of perceiving the world and so daily, the nudity of the human body, to recreate its significance in different ways. What’s more, in the case of Martí Moreno, these shapes can even surprise us, despite the healthy custom that some of us practice of constantly recreating nudity in our imagination. Any nude by Martí Moreno, in one way or another, manifests as possible direct blow to our perception. In some way the fragmented body always addresses us and speaks to us directly. In some way we can’t react in a totally indifferent way to metal body which he presents.
The tension which is established between the traditional nude and the introduction of a social and ideological significance of the work, clearly states how Martí Moreno overthrows the traditional point of view of nakedness.
The surface then becomes a focal point between the internal idea of the work and the artist’s hand.
I don’t know if I have been capable of explaining my point of view. I can excuse myself in the fact that words can’t explain nudity, because nudity, in art, requires one to view it. This is the reason why you should look at the sculptures and feel their capacity to suggest: they will tell you a lot more about beauty itself, in a single glance and without a word, than I am capable of.
Its sculptures like these that make it possible to observe nudity that goes a step further than original nakedness. Because nudity in the work of Martí Moreno makes it possible to appreciate real life nakedness.
I have known Manuel Martí Moreno for quite a few years now. When he started to exhibit his sculptures he was already set apart because he bestowed them with a special essence. At the present, he gives expression to the destruction of the interior of the volumes by never closing the outlines, in other words, negating shape. In this way he leaves a clue to the viewer to understand the essence of the void which they transmit.
The abstraction suggested, by means of bodies and faces which are about to disappear, confer a certain magical aura to the eyes of the viewer. He can’t stop interacting with the spectator by means of the grandiosity conferred by his works. In this way, he makes us consider and question if the invasion of the void by them acquires a dramatic tone due to the fact that they aren’t completely modeled. The tension which exists between interior and exterior volume and space is, simply, a frontier line which he knows how to limit by means of the outlines but, also, eliminate by simply negating shape.
Manuel Martí Moreno shows us that personal, ethereal, world full of archetypes. He designs his works creating them with very disperse material, recovered from the time and functionality for which it was original conferred: screws, mesh, old wood, rusty metal sheets or, even, earth. All these materials are tangible elements which are always present in nearly all of his sculptures and which had been used for other more functional purposes.
If we analyze his sculptures, even though they seem very physical, they awaken a special sensibility in the spectator nearly instantly: the smooth flow of the shapes, the rhythm of the outlines of the bodies which in a vast majority start disintegrating, provide a continuous melody, which combines both calmness and surprise at the same time. We could assert that his works wants to leave the space occupied by the void free, the essence which they contain. He speaks to us through his sculptures of physical, material, fragility but it is easy to discern that for Martí Moreno the void is stronger, it is permanently there, between spirit and body. This may be the reason why they are disintegrating, maybe they are always opening. Body, - matter, yes, but also, Essence – Void. The casing, for some of the viewers, is the matter, the reference in which to lean to reach the Essence, while for the sculptor it is the first idea, what we are referring to, the void or negation of shapes. Without this concept, the shape is no longer effective or visual becoming something untouchable, dissolving. Even though, Martí Moreno finishes his work as something physical – the body –, the unfinished shapes or implying the loss of matter oppose, like two sides of the same coin, with the essence – the void – symbolized by ether, because it isn’t present. The void fills and opens the container which is the body itself. It is a permanent game in his work. The spectator grasps the Idea and takes it from what is visual to what is implied, reaching the concept. Considering the privilege, in which he indirectly allows us to enter his world of continuous creation and, due to this, makes us part of divine action.
It is interesting to see the approach of one of his works, where he expresses the internal fight of the physical body trapped by other external forces that exercise pressure upon it, as if it were a press tip. This work, S/T, won the Premio Senyera de Escultura in 2007. This was the first of the sculptures by Manuel Martí that had this distinct symbology which he still maintains today, even though with certain nuances, because his work is now more subtle and expressive. The artistic poetry with which he works was already present.
In the following works that he completed he clearly freed the external factor that crushes them and, at the same time, their interior. By deconstructing them, freeing them and liberating the volume of the contained space, the message can be quickly transmitted to the viewer: the idea of the void, in other words, the negation of shape itself.
In the collection which he presented under the name of Places of memory (Lugares de la memoria), in La Casa de l’Oli showroom in Vila-real in 2009, with works named Apatía, India, Transición & Huellas, among others, he transferred us to far off worlds where the degradation of architecture is obvious. The foundations on which each of the architectonic works is placed are coming undone. The clay or the rusty steel plates transport us to a world where time and space are lost. Harmonic internal and external fights take place, with the weight of the balance leaning towards the explicit presence of the void. In this exposition he also showed part of the collections Frágiles, which contains works like Tánatos and Recuerdos which clearly make the fragility of the human body evident, just as the buildings the bodies are breaking down, losing part of their corporeal entity in the physical world. One of the works included in this collection won the Fundación-Bancaja-Segorbe prize in 2008. As a controller of shape and anatomy he allows himself to correct them, in other words, to eliminate their formal aspect, it isn’t necessary for us to see them complete. Some which is clear in La huella de las palabras, which is a self-portrait that won the Premio Galarsa de Escultura in 2009. The most outstanding factor of this sculpture is how matter falls apart, how things start to empty and how that void transforms in the process into a figure. May it be that the deterioration of matter allows the possibility to make the void visual, the Idea why it also has volume and, due to this, artistic expression?
In the exposition which took place in Castalia Iuris in year 2010 he presented the collection Umbrales, surprising works where paintings, relief and external elements cause a certain visual confusion to the viewer. Under different titles including, Destino, Incertidumbre, Reflejo, Almario or Ausencia, he transports us to his interior world. Once again faces are the main element. Portraits that fight to exit their two dimension space to enter the three dimension space of shapes and volumes, by means of ‘masks’ made out of mesh, which are nearly absent, thus appearing to hardly be there. Once again, this duality game, this balance where painting and sculpture interact with space, time and the void created between them in which they seem to be trapped; both the second and third dimension are represented by means of a face which is painted, imagined on a flat surface yet thrown forwards, fighting to breathe, to exit, with the mesh becoming the flesh, the limit to the volume that by means of the void created between both of them recreates, fills and give shape to it.
However, the metal works which are created with screws seem to symbolize the skin’s pores, or the microcosms which forms each of the surfaces of the materials. Thus, in the face names Ausencia that recently received the Premio Silvestre de Edeta from the Lliria townhall, he starts a new journey within his work, with the same theme, of heads, faces and imaginary portraits, which seem to have been transferred to broken space. A curious approach that is clearly based on his stylistic evolution, that shows that he knows how to capture volume, handling it and making it his own.
Due to all this, his vision shows a sensibility which goes further than any material approach. Martí Moren in his incessant investigation is never satisfied. The curiosity he feels towards the world of ideas is reflected by the innate way which he possesses to create and transmit how pure form go further than the representation of the body to slowly escape under the dual concept of essence and void. As I have indicated about, his works suggest the need to disregard any kind of shape or volume, or any need to occupy space and time, reaching a point where they empty and expand where the viewer clearly collaborates to complete the process when viewing the sculptures. I suppose that he has a natural gift that allows him to transmit his world, his vision of human nature.
Faces, houses, bodies, fragility, hardness, they are a whole, a coin with different sides, where one can’t be without the other. In other words, shape is subject to our tactile and visual world, but the void with which he fills and breaks it is so clear that it strikes us due to the boldness of its absence.
If we have a quick artistic look at the meaning of the representation of the void and disintegration of shape, the clearest example is the ornaments used in Islamic art. The negation or destruction of the physical body, or are they call it ‘idol’, is a wrapping and an error. They empty the material, creating arabesque, trepanning and opening the surface and the interior of the matter. The void is sacred and they don’t know another way of representing it. Islamic art maintains an enormous of what is inimitable of man, of the body. The void in Islamic art has aesthetic, impersonal and anonymous quality.
Nearer, in time and aesthetic concept, to us, westerners, we have the negation of shapes because thanks to it we can get to know the essence of the void. This idea was started at the beginning of the 20th Century by cubists, futurists, surrealists and nihilists, which expanded the possibilities of shape where space creates the tension, with areas that are full and empty. This destruction of images has as a goal the total emptiness as was represented by such artists as Gargallo, Oteize or Chillida. Martí Moreno has never concealed that his iconographic reference for his work is, in part, influenced by the work of Jaume Plensa. Who works under a concept where his works of art are permanently subject to ether and deconstruction.
This concept is also used by Martí Moreno in his work but he provides them with a special impulse that allows them to break free from the theme. Some of this works of art disturb us due to the pathos reflected by their decomposition; the matter is transformed into substance. He transforms what is visual into a sensitive quality. Thus, with the painting of the faces which are associated to the mesh, together with the white color, which is nearly absent, when trying to provide the painting with a third dimension, he causes that contained void that is trying to escape. Therefore, where return to the duality of sculpture versus painting, of void versus matter and color versus volume. He voluntarily goes into the intimate need to purge the shapes, that surprise, in a great degree, to the spectator due to their simplicity but, specially, due to their expressive strength.
To finish off, I would like to mention a reflection of the modern Kyoto School philosophical movement that, from my point of view, clearly defines the artistic expression reached by the work of Martí Moreno: ‘It isn’t that reality is empty, nothingness is reality’.
I think there are few occasions, for those of us that in a continuous or sporadic way work as art critics, to have the total freedom to speak freely about the work of an artist which we really admire and value both due to his technical results as well as for the coherence of his themes. In general the view of certain modern day critics, are subject to the relationship with the artist, to friendship or simply remunerated work. The evaluation carried out about the work (on some occasions more about their creator) has always to be highlighted from a favorable point of view, unless you want to end up without any friends or even without work; something that in some ways opposes the quality, objectivity and frankness with which certain work is viewed. But later and to encourage us there are other types of assessments and criticisms, where it is really gratifying to be able to issue a positive recommendation, like for example, when you speak or write about the work of somebody with a professional rigor, sensibility and human perception, as is the case with my good friend Manuel Martí Moreno (Valencia, 1979) a sculptor that doesn’t stop astonishing me each time I have the opportunity to view one of his works of art.
I have known Manuel Martí for quite some time and he has always fascinated me not only for the great quality and technical facture that I have seen in his sculpture, bus also due to the intellectual coherence and argumentation with which he supports the idea behind his work. Bachelor of Arta by the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, specialized in sculpting, Martí is also interested in investigation, something that is backed by his two doctorate courses in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, having received from this last university the condition of honorary collaborator for the Sculpting department.
Despite the fact that some of his work can still remind us of former iconographic figures of certain relevance, as is the case of the work of the Catalonian sculptor Jaume Plensa (Barcelona – 1955), whom this young artist has always recognized as a direct influence with humbleness, coherence and pride, something that body any doubt honors him, and that on the other hand responds to a logic process which is the result of the investigation and search for the personal identity if his work; which each day takes its own step, with marked singularity and beauty, crystalizing in a language which expresses both high quality and distinction.
His clear interests in the material and the expressive character which he gets from them, is something that has made this young artist work with various textures and surfaces, that set forth many varied concepts, yet never covering the one that forms an essential part of his work, as the artist himself reminds us, which is the following… ‘For me, the concept that guides all my work, is a plastic and aesthetic reflection about the reality of the contemporary man, the sensation of fleetingness and fragility of our existence, the conscience about death itself and the void caused inside us… in other words, all the existential matters that have affected mankind throughout the history of humanity.’
And setting forth this concept or idea, Manuel Martí, offers us it with a formal aspect, with results that have great aesthetic appeal, where the technical aspect that intervene in the creation of the sculpture, have been carefully looked into, both those which correspond to the descriptive point of view, mainly related to the drawing of the shapes (in his case human figures), as well as those that have to do with the in depth knowledge of structural and physical characteristics of the materials used to create them. Combining two types or genres of sculpture, on one hand, the high profile, using a fine metal mesh when modeling, that provides the work not only with a disturbing transparency (very unusual in this genre) but also with an expressive and sometimes enigmatic aspect of the faces which he recreates.
And on the other hand, the Ronde-bosse, with a very appealing and suggestive sense of volume, where the sculptor combines in a beautiful and organic relation of the third dimension, both physical volume, as well as that justified by virtual (empty) space which indicates that the pieces is properly finished, producing a result that despite the assumed heaviness implied by the proportions of the figures which he represents, as well as by the base or material used to create them (generally iron), shows a finished sculpture that seems very light , fragile and beautiful, thanks to the ‘incomplete’ sense with which it has been finished.
And as happens nearly always in visual polysemic implied in works of art, I have always wanted to ‘read’ from the sculptures of Manuel Martí Moreno, despite knowing the idea behind his projects, the essential and necessary need of improvement that the individual must have as a transforming and transformable being, or in other words, the requirement that the human being has to build oneself during all his life in a close relation with everybody else. Something that in some ways endorses the belief of Ortega y Gasset, which is clearly stated in his famous phrase ‘Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo’. This may be the reason why these seemingly ‘unfinished’ sculptures are finished and repaired in our mind when we see them, thus showing that recurring and necessary communication bond that must always exist between the work of art and the public. And following in what regards to the philosophical interpretation, I also like to associate his sculptures, with the relation of a part with the whole and viceversa. But no matter what he see in his work, the truth is that it is always stimulating and gratifying to see his creations, because not only do we find rigor, perseverance and work, but also feelings and beauty, essential ingredients to transform dedication into the yearned and in this case worthy success of the sculptures and their creator.
This is why I am convinced that even though I am now presenting a young and talented sculptor, it won’t be long before I have to value the work of a consummate master of volume, because as the sentence clearly states ‘Why know the try by its fruit’ (‘A fructibus cognoscitur arbor’), in what refers to the Valencian Manuel Martí Moreno, his fruit will be like the delicious oranges of his beloved hometown, very sweet and of even better quality, because in this case the seed has been fertilized with humbleness, sensitivity and rigor, something that good creators great masters.
Congratulations Manuel and thank you for sharing your work with everyone, without any doubt we all enjoy it a lot.