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Martin Margiela, Self-Portraits
Eenwerk Gallery, Amsterdam
In a post-digital age where fashion designers often flirt with fame, Martin Margiela remains a mythical figure who has eluded the limelight for decades. His artistic canonisation presents a fascinating dichotomy between a legacy that has helped define contemporary creative practice in the postmodern era, and a corporeal presence that is tenaciously concealed. The Belgian fashion designer turned artist plays with this dichotomy in his series Self-Portraits, currently on show at Eenwerk Gallery in Amsterdam. Employing the narrative of photography, the idea of portraiture is abstracted into a series of fragments spanning across the gallery, as if meandering through the various sides of Margiela in hopes of reconciling the incognito with the imaginary. The composition of Self-Portraits is firmly rooted in the materiality of wooden veneers and the artist’s leitmotif of white paint, while Projection Screen is contextualised by the literary veneer of the words written on the screen. The interdisciplinary curiosity and body of work of the A Magazine N°1 curator posits the discipline of self-portraiture to be as open-ended as the man, the myth and the legend himself.
“When looking at the contact sheets from the archives of great photographers, you will quickly notice that the selection outlining which photos will be chosen for publication is marked by the placement of small dots or, more radically, by crossing out rejected images. Either way, all pictures taken from an analogue 36-shot film strip remain visible on the contact sheet. In this sense, the way Margiela avoids the visibility of a representation is even more radical. One associates domestic, everyday protective measures with people closing the shutters on their windows in the evenings, to protect themselves from strangers’ gazes. Margiela seemingly applies such a protective measure to his own depiction by transferring the motif of a glare shield and using it as a protective screen in the photo.
The title conveys that this creation is a self-portrait. Were it ‘Untitled’, the pictorial object might be regarded as a collage or montage. From an art-historical point of view, the applied, found artificial wood immediately causes the image to appear as a trompe l’oeil, as an illusion of the eye, as a deception of the senses, as playing with reality — it becomes a painting. You have to look and scrutinise what you see to discern that it stems from a different reality. In this alternative context, the found and previously discarded material is redefined and glorified as an image. It is representation preceding a representation. A surreal pictorial principle. A portrait of itself.”
– Friedrich Meschede, translated from German by Katerine Niedriger
Self-Portraits by Martin Margiela is on show at Eenwerk Gallery
in Amsterdam, The Netherlands until July 2, 2022.
All images courtesy of the artist and Eenwerk Gallery.
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