Carlos Martins (1946 - )

Melancolia (1990)

Aquatint on paper
height: 53.5cm
width: 39.5cm

Donated by Carlos Martins 1998


ESCALA holds a total of twenty-five works by Carlos Martins, and Melancholy is a striking example. Together with the etching of the same date, Pedra Branca, Melancholy makes a return to the concerns of the 1981 series, 10 Cantos, a series that Martins has described as his most significant. Not only did the Cantos attract considerable critical support but they also have personal importance, telling the story of Martin's return and re-adaptation to Brazil, of the replanting of roots. Martins' study of the history of engraving while in London continued into his rediscovery of the history of Brazilian printmaking, and he described this series as a homage to the history of engraving: the recuperation of aspects of its origin. Melancholy distils this concern into a minimally rendered black polyhedron, with clear reference to Dürer's 1524 copperplate engraving Melancholia I. The literature on Melancholia is more extensive than that of any other engraving by Dürer. Historians have teased out its relationship to Renaissance Neo-Platonism, and mathematicians have pondered the geometry of the octahedral form that plays a central part in its composition, both literally and symbolically. Martins' rendering of 'Dürer's soli' as it is termed by mathematicians, has a tangibly evocative emotional weight. It is a heavy black form that evokes the etymology of its title (Greek melan=black, cholé=bile). In relation to the precision of his technique Martins has commented that strict and rational composition is a means of containing memory and emotion; that reduction and refinement are not emotionally cold, but an intensified, almost Proustian process of evocation. Melancholy is perhaps the most persuasive embodiment of this aim.

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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