Schuld (“Guiltiness”) is the third exhibition, at the In Situ – Fabienne Leclerc gallery, by Martin Dammann. This Berlin-based artist, born there in 1965, is presenting original or recent works: watercolors on Masonite and paper and photographic installations.
For 20 years, Martin Dammann has gleaned photos of the two world wars taken by German, French, English and American soldiers during their leisure activities or time spent with their family while on leave. This war photography is the starting point for an aesthetic recycling that the artist applies to different supports, whether large-scale watercolors, drawings, photographic works, videos, rubbings or installations.
Reworking these found images into a “post-photograph,” in the line as conceptual as it is plastic of a Gerhard Richter, Martin Damman circumvents the nature of these dark periods to concentrate on their activities on the sidelines of the war, comprehending the singular of course but never exceptional event of life lived.
Martin Dammann’s pictorial universe is of a finely calculated ambiguity. What do these images show? To all appearances, nothing violently direct. The painting oscillates between figuration and dissolving and the watercolor, applied on Masonite, a nonabsorbent surface, is dissolved in it in a magnetic puddle effect… Here, in a composition that approaches abstraction, we can just about make out a man falling backward into the water, there, a woman in front of a car, an Asian woman sitting on the knees of an American GI, a woman lying down in the middle of a pasture. The idea of guiltiness that brings together these images and unifies their subject is not declarative. It is deduced, while we apply a “pensive look” (Régis Durand) to these images, from the ambivalent atmosphere that emanates from things seen subliminally.
Martin Dammann generates an art comprised of combined introspection and pleasure. He plays as an expert in visual manipulation with the often contradictory relationship the images have with the real. His creations sweep and revive the archive to better stir up the dead matter in it.