Martinec’s paintings and drawings explore ideas about time, history, reality and spirituality, often appropriating imagery from vintage photographs and the Old Masters, and these new works have been developed in response to an invitation from the National Gallery in Prague to respond to the museum's Baroque collection.
The exhibition includes both paintings and drawings. The upper gallery is devoted to Martinec's technically extraordinary hyperrealist paintings. These grisaille works address different registers of reality by bringing together historical and contemporary references. Martinec’s works seem to suggest that multiple realities – including the present and moments from history – can potentially exist simultaneously. Thus motifs from Van Dyck, Zurbarán and Rubens are interwoven with references to a contemporary technologically-enabled media-saturated reality. In Circus of Nightmares (2017) a Van Dyck Satyr wears a Virtual Reality headset, while in The Boat on The Moon (2017) an ultrasound image of an unborn baby appears to float in a void next to a scroll bearing the signature of Zurbarán. In the lower gallery a selection of Martinec’s recent drawings appropriate imagery from Old Masters and vintage photographs and combine them with the instantly recognisable signatures of great artists including Picasso, Degas and Duchamp. That the images and signatures do not match suggests a strange hybridity but also hints at the ongoing mechanism of artistic influence across time.
The title of the exhibition is drawn from an important early text by Friedrich Nietzsche. In The Birth of Tragedy (1872) Nietzsche argues for an immersive form of art, emphasising the passionate Dionysian above the rational Apollonian. For Martinec, Nietzsche is also important for his radical critique of Truth as well as the existence of God. Martinec’s work demonstrates his conviction that ‘truth’ is a fluid concept, constantly changing. And in the present historical moment, at a time of conflict and unrest, Martinec’s use of the plural ‘tragedies’ implies an unsettling currency.