From 12 May to 18 June 2017, the Brasilea Foundation shows contemporary Afro-Brazilian paintings by Arjan Martins. Arjan Martins, who is one of the most interesting representatives of contemporary Brazilian art, works through his origins by doing historical basic research, intensively examines the ever-present theme of migration of peoples and the colonial period, and depicts cartographic material that documents and illustrates the trade and shipment of slaves.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1960, he still lives and works there. His work is characterized by the question of ethnic identity. He uses historical photos depicting people in everyday situations and dealing with migration. Arjan Martins translates the overarching question to a variety of surfaces: thrown away pieces of wood, paper, walls, floors, the city as such, etc. He sketches quiet silhouettes as well as exact borders, uses whitewash or lets his realizations explode painterly.
In Arjan Martin’s works, the viewer feels the drive and tensions of his inner universe. “I try to transform voices and sounds from history books, written and spoken records, as well as quotations into imaginary portraits.” Arjan Martins questions the superficial humanity on earth and returns it to its origins by introducing the transience of used objects as a presentation platform. He tries to penetrate the non-organic essence of things. For this he finds expression in incredibly strong colors and compositions, with always recurring motifs. The superior subject of migration is presented by sextants, ship hulls and globes. On the other hand, always returning, the little black girl with her hand forming a fist in front of her face. At first in a green dress, then again schematically, young, pre-pubertarian, innocent.
Then older, darker, sad, shocked. The girl, the young Afro-migrant, has been accompanying Arjan Martins for many years; She represents an emotional level in his works. Her origin can be traced back to a photograph from the 1950s, depicted on a record cover by Oscar Peterson – Girl Talk (from photographer Josef Werkmeister), published in 1968. Today, she would be in her eighties, given that she is still alive. Always recurring is also the motif of the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who floated to shore in Turkey near Bodrum in 2015 as he was fleeing with his family from the war in Syria. A picture that shocked the world, a symbol of the tragedy of the current international migration.
For the exhibition in the Brasilea Foundation, Arjan Martins is creating around 25 works on wood and canvas in his temporary studio, which he has installed on site. He will spent three months working at the exhibition in Basel which itself will change over time. The studio is an integral part of the exhibition and can be viewed during the opening hours. In this way, Arjan Martins provides the visitors with an insight into the development process of his works.