Dani Marti | Revealing Intimacy

'shadow after shadow (portrait of the artist's mother at the age of 73)',  2007, Detail. Polyester, nylon, knitting yarn and stainless steel ball chain. 230x 355 x 5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and MCA Sydney. Image by Jeremy North.

‘shadow after shadow (portrait of the artist’s mother at the age of 73)’, 2007, Detail. Polyester, nylon, knitting yarn and stainless steel ball chain. 230x 355 x 5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and MCA Sydney. Image by Jeremy North.

The day I visited Dani Marti’s studio in Hunter Valley to interview him and get to know his tridimensional work I would never imagine that our conversation would rise such delicate subjects as sexuality, HIV, and the complexity of approaching intimacy with artistic purposes. Now, while I am writing this post and listen again to the recording I can’t help smiling when I hear myself stammering in surprise facing the spontaneity in which Dani talks about his encounters with friends and strangers. He proposes to them to record their most intimate situations and, it is worth mentioning, most of them accept. In his words and in his body of work you get a big deal of the esteem and curiosity he feels when portraying the deepest intimacy of other people.

I laugh at myself, I say, at my perplexity about the course of the interview and at my shyness. The truth is that the exterior appearance of his woven constructions doesn’t correspond with the many feelings that underlie the final work. Deeply influenced by Minimalism, his tridimensional constructions correspond to this aesthetic: abstraction, geometry, repetition and monochromy, but that’s all. The narratives inherent to them break away from the Minimalist premises; they are actually portraits of friends and relatives mainly, but also of strangers, artists and historical or literary personalities for whom the artist feels a kind of attraction. Dani Marti calls it “Emotional” or “Feeling Minimalism”; in his own words: “Most of the time, the starting point is for me my personal and emotional experience with the world, particularly with people. I cannot approach abstraction for the sake of abstraction; somehow it has to have some sort of narrative for me to be able to produce that abstraction.”

Dani Marti Sculpture

“Portrait of John Snedden (alias John Connery) with his little dog Rocco” 2011. Steel and coper scourers
aprox 150 x 220 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist and the Mordant Collection, Sydney.

In the same way, his creative process is far from that Minimalist practice that entrusts the production of the piece to others. Marti learned the technique of tapestry and macramé when he was a child in Barcelona, in the 70s, and practiced it for several years until he took it up again as an adult, when he decided to make a living as an artist once he had settled in Australia. This technique is an important part of his body of work; with his own hands he interweaves ropes and threads of any size and material using a frame as a support, but he also uses other unusual materials such as towels used by different people, scourers that represent body cells, interwoven necklaces and plastic objects that belonged to a particular person, as well as road reflectors he has previously melted and deformed. All of them are carefully selected to portray the uniqueness of each private story: “I do portraits from very intimate situations. Colors and threads are very important as they are very related to each person I portray. It is like an encoded surface, an emotional response to my relation to each person in particular; my experience of this person is reflected in the tension in the surface, in the materials.”

Dani Marti Sculpture

‘Becoming animal’ 2006. Polyester and nylon . 130 cm diameter x 30 cm depth. Image by Paul Green. Courtesy of the artist and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne.

While reading thoroughly what other authors say about Dani Marti’s work I find new aesthetic references such as Malevich’s chromatic paintings so admired by the artist. Also, very different artists are mentioned, for example Frank Stella, Jackson Pollock and Félix González-Torres. Likewise, some authors have analysed Marti’s work from a queer perspective providing a very specific terminology that includes “Perverted” and “Queer Minimalism”[1]. From a formal point of view there are also a number of expressions to name this hybrid of painting and sculpture: “Expanded Painting”[2] and “Materialist Portraiture”[3] are two of them, “I like this terminology although I usually call them woven constructions. For me, they are between painting and sculpture. They have a lot of references to Minimalism, color fields and painting but they are also about texture, which is very important to me, the emotional texture.”

In short, all this terminology basically shows the emotional complexity that underlies these clean and meticulously made constructions. Some of them are related to videos, which provide a more explicit, allegoric complement, in the artist’s words. The titles also help to discover intuitively a deeper meaning. In my opinion, this narrative minimalism shares the same path as Santiago Sierra’s work. In spite of the essential conceptual and thematic differences, both artists have in common the combination of documentary video and sculptural minimalist-like work. Also, in both media they portray delicate situations previously agreed between the author and the subject. In Dani Marti’s world these situations belong to their very intimacy whereas in Sierra they are about submission. Both approaches lead to questioning the limits of art when dealing with the intimacy and dignity of anonymous people.

In 2015 you can see Dani Marti’s exhibitions in Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide (May-June) and Galerie Lausberg, Dusseldorf (June-July).

By Paula Llull

More info:

Dani Marti’s web is very complete, with many high quality images and fragments of all his videos. Also, it has a very complete section of texts about his body of work.

Matt Price, ed., “Dani Marti”, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2012. It compiles several essays on his video and woven works as well as an interview with the artist.

[1] Matt Price, ed. “Dani Marti”, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2012

[2] http://danimarti.com//cms/wp-content/uploads/2327/06_tying_ends_catalogue.pdf

[3] Matt Price, Dani Marti

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