Martin Derner: Appetiser

The point of departure for Martine Derner is graphic arts, as a medium whose traditional language he transforms whether through computer programmes or with shifts into sculpture forms such as relief or object.


Article Inventory No.: F -77
Author: Martin Derner
Work Title: Appetiser

Year: 2007
Technique: combined technique
Material: combined material
Dimensions: 22.5 x 12.5 x 17 cm

The point of departure for Martine Derner is graphic arts, as a medium whose traditional language he transforms whether through computer programmes or with shifts into sculpture forms such as relief or object. His works are characterized by a constant dialogue between surface and space, by a specific kind of humour, irony, creating new, unexpected and often absurd images and situations. He likes to appropriate the visual forms from the past (e.g. old postcards) or classical genres from the art history. He likes to manipulate them, destruct and comment on them with a contemporary visual language. He performs these interventions through overpainting, coverage, milling, cutting, digging or emptying out.

“The works by Martin Derner have been an example of rich, and at the same time condensed range of visual language that has been tied to its background in graphic arts but that has also been in a dialogue with it in terms of new, hybrid forms and genres and disciplines of art, such as the category of aesthetic values, including the aesthetics of cognition. His artistic programme ranges from the analytical (partly retrospective) and polemic exploration of borders between drawing, to condensed black and white iconographic graphic prints, developed in several strategies to build visual language into the scale of spatial interstices, and objects. At the same time the ideological basis of his work is multilayered, ambivalent and pluralistic and it is the pregnant expression of its liquid time.” [1]

The book as an artistic object forms an independent part of Martin Derner’s work. He has been working with it since 2005. He uses methods that are similar to sculpturing and makes interventions into publications themselves and changes them into objects whose new semantic levels are connected either with their content, formal or aesthetic qualities or their social connotations. The artwork called Appetiser is a Latin-Slovak/ Slovak-Latin dictionary penetrated by a spoon, “stabbing” it. It is a very simple, however, expressive and witty gesture that creates a wholly new situation and moves the traditional object into the new level of reading. Latin was he state language of the Roman Empire, the language of medieval scholars and even though at present it is a dead language (nobody speaks it actively) it remained liturgical language of Roman-Catholic Church and the official language of Vatican, it is used for example in biology, medicine or law. The contemporary Roman languages (such as Italian, French, Spanish and so on) developed from it, but also in the Slovak language we use a lot of expressions that come from it. We also use the writing system that was derived from the Latin alphabet and is the most widespread form of the writing system in the world.

The title of the artwork is significant. It opens up the possibilities that it can be interpreted in various ways. Latin is the basis of the western civilization, i.e. as the language it is some kind of “appetiser” introducing other European languages. At the same time it is a very complex and difficult language, only few people understand it at present, therefore the title can be perceived also as an ironic commentary of the incomprehensibility. The appetiser is usually a light, small food followed by the main course, however, in the given context Derner turns the logic upside down. A number of contemporary artists work with the same logic, they take a banal object of everyday use and often with a simple intervention or shift of meaning they change its function and create a new, often witty or absurd situation. The gesture of a spoon “stabbed” into some “food” can be further interpreted as a sign of possible effort to communicate, to “digest” the language. That effort, however, failed and therefore “the food for the soul” (books and literature in general) remains untouched, while we even have not “tasted” it yet.

MARTIN DERNER was born in Košice, in 1973. From 1996 – to 2002 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava at the Department of Graphic Design and other Media in the Studio of Free and Colour Graphic Arts (doc. Vojtech Kolenčík). In 1998 he finished the study stay at the Akademii sztuk pięknych in Poznan, Poland, in 1999 at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. From 2005 he teaches at the Department of Graphic Art at the Academy of Visual Art in Banská Bystrica. He lives and works in Bratislava and in addition to free art he also works as graphic designer.

Text: Omar Mirza
Photo: Slavomír Žákovič

Secondary Literature:
[1] Alena Vrbanová, in: Martin Derner, autorský katalóg, Bratislava 2009, unpaged, ISBN 978-80-970254-1-0.

This acquisition has been supported using public funds provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic.