Untitled (monoprints), 1990-2019

Karel Martens (b. 1939) was trained as an artist but is most known as a freelance graphic designer, specializing in typography. Alongside this, he has always made non-commissioned graphic and three-dimensional work. His renowned series of monoprints are a beautiful example of this autonomous practice and a long-standing occupation.

By using ink on found metal objects (for example discarded flat car parts) different compositions are made on found index or catalogue cards. With an old bookbinders’ press, an almost daily experiment starts with colour and form, producing unique compositions that bear Martens’ unmistakable visual energy, and continuous motion.

His methods are slow but very precise; he prints one colour per day, waits for it to dry, and prints the second colour the next day. By this method, Martens’ prints may take days or weeks to be completed.

A special mention are the archival cards – which Martens found – from the Stedelijk Museum, designed at that time by Willem Sandberg who was also director of the same museum. It is Martens’ longest on-going project and it started when the catalogues in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam were being digitized and the old archive cards were being discarded. Martens have been using them as a canvas for his projects since then and each print is unique in that they are made from individual catalogue cards.

In his new series of monoprints, made from 2017 onwards, he further elaborates on a variety of abstract forms and color. Sometimes these forms were already used in the nineties – like the circle patterns or the grids – but now executed in new variations with a beautiful complexity.

Recently he also used a new material as bearer for the prints, i.e. a series of used Japanese forms, probably used for invoices, with handwritten notations and stamped in red. On the verso the ultra thin paper has a blue carbon pattern which shines through. Martens interventions make a two-dimensional gem out of an everyday object. The characteristics of the applied ink (color, thickness, transparancy, shining) and the form of the metal objects are in a superb dialogue with the underlaying material and make together a beautiful palimpsest.

 

Karel Martens
Untitled, 1990
Letterpress monoprint on found card (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)
205 x 290 mm
Unique (KM1990-02)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 1990
Letterpress monoprint on found card
203 x 285 mm, unique (KM1990-01)
(Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam catalogue card)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2010
Letterpress monoprint on found card (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)
207 x 294 mm
Unique (KM2010-01)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2012
Letterpress monoprint on found card
148 x 208 mm, unique (KM2012-03)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2012
Letterpress monoprint on found card
210 x 302 mm
Unique (KM2012-04)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2012
Letterpress monoprint on found card
148 x 210 mm
Unique (KM2012-05)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2012
Letterpress monoprint on found card
171 x 237 mm
Unique (KM2012-06)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2015
Letterpress monoprint on found card
210 x 290 mm
Unique (KM2015-06)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2014
Letterpress monoprint on found card 170 x 235 mm Unique (KM2014-03)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2014
Letterpress monoprint on found card
170 x 235 mm, unique (KM2014-04)
Karel Martens Untitled, 2015 Letterpress monoprint on found card 98 x 152 mm Unique (KM2015-04)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2015
Letterpress monoprint on found card 149 x 199 mm Unique (KM2015-01)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2016
Letterpress monoprint on found card
124 x 199 mm, unique (KM2016-01)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2016
Letterpress monoprint on found card
124 x 199 mm, unique (KM2016-02)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2016
Letterpress monoprint on found card
124 x 199 mm, unique (KM2016-04)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
127 x 200 mm, unique (KM2017-04)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2018
Letterpress monoprint on found card
127 x 200 mm, unique (KM2018-05)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2018
Letterpress monoprint on found card
127 x 200 mm, unique (KM2018-06)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2018
Letterpress monoprint on found card
127 x 200 mm, unique (KM2018-07)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
127 x 200 mm, unique (KM2017-06)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2018
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2018-15)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2019
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2019-05)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2017-08)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2017-09)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2017-10)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2017-12)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2017
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2017-14)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2018
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2019-03)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2019
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2019-01)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2019
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2019-02)
Karel Martens
Untitled, 2019
Letterpress monoprint on found card
125 x 201 mm
Unique (KM2019-04)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-08)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-09)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-10)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-12)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-14)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-15)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-16)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-17)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-18)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-20)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-22)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-23)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-24)
Karel Martens
Letterpress monoprint on used Japanese form
thin paper with part of verso in carbon
181 x 127 mm
Unique (KM2019-25)