Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Ravages of Time

“It is useless to contend with the irresistible power of Time, which goes on continually creating by a process of constant destruction”. This apparently paradoxical statement by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), an American critic, jurist, author, composer and artist, perfectly suits the keystone concept behind the awe-inspiring sculptures by Manuel Martí Moreno.

Born and living in Valencia, Spain, Manuel Martí Moreno has become widely known for his mesmerising figurative sculptures made from rusty metal mesh or screws and iron nuts, and depicting “incomplete” human features meant to illustrate the decay inexorably exerted by time. The medium he chose emphasizes the idea of corrosion he wants to convey, since it is – in itself – easily affected by the passing of time.

The metal statues in his series under the title of “The Fugacity of Existence” (La Fugacidad de la Existencia) strongly impress viewers, as the artist directly addresses them with the dramatically fragmented bodies he creates, which seem to demand a response. In fact, what he does is to draw awareness to the process of destruction that time has, by depriving the human shapes he sculpts of their interior and never actually closing their outlines. This produces a further effect on spectators, which is the shattering sensation that the human features they are looking at are leaving part of themselves behind, as if they are about to desintegrate in the process of going through life and time.

Martí Moreno’s uncommon and thought-provoking sculptures gain a certain magical aura, insofar as they seem to persistently interact with viewers challenging their perceptions of interior and exterior, volume and space and – ultimately – of deeper concepts such as life, decay, void and the significance and fugacity of existence.

On the other hand, Manuel Martí Moreno triggers another kind of sensibility in viewers with the smooth flow he gives to the shapes of his sculptures, the undulating rhythm of the outlines of their crumbling bodies, offering an uncanny feeling of a continuous melody conveying peace and mystery at the same time. They simultaneously disturb and enchant audiences, directly addressing them with the disconcerting tension between matter and essence, spirit and body, volume and void. His sculptures seem to be only temporarily among us, ready to disintegrate into powder at any moment right before our eyes... “dust to dust, ashes to ashes”.

And suddenly viewers may realize they have been trapped in the game set before them by Moreno’s awesome sculptures: they become part of it, interact with them and become aware of their own frailty as human beings continuously exposed to the ravages of time, just like Martí Moreno’s artworks. The fragility of human nature can be seen in the rusty iron nuts which evoke skin pores, the transience of existence becomes evident in those bodies which seem to leave part of themselves behind as they proceed their journey in life and undergo the inevitable process of decay.

In his artistic statement about the fleetingness of existence and his way of addressing emptiness, Manuel Marti Moreno’s work reminds us of Bruno Catalano’s incomplete sculptures, dealt with in a previous post.  Moreno’s creations, however, are left with their ostensible void, never fulfilled, dramatically at the mercy of the imagined and inexorable decay.

Actually, Martí Moreno may be said to continuously create a process of constant destruction with his sculptures, strongly impressing audiences who cannot remain indifferent to the whimsical beauty of these artworks which powerfully depict the ravages of time on human existence.

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