Carlos Martins (1946 - )

Natureza morta 2 (1977)
Still Life 2

Dry point on paper
height: 38cm
width: 28.5cm

Donated by Carlos Martins 1998


Carlos Martins had received a British Academy grant to study architecture at Edinburgh University between 1973 and 1975, and in his final year he studied etching at the Slade, London, where he went on to take a specialised course in printmaking techniques (1975-77). Martins produced several still life studies towards the end of this period. Still Life 1 and Still Life 2 effect a reversal of the 'landscape' works included in the series Journey to Portugal. In that earlier series stylised, object-like, trees disorientate the viewer's sense of scale when placed within apparently exterior spaces; here tiny trees appear amongst objects apparently grouped to form the traditional composition of a still life. Still Life 1 and Still Life 2, especially when viewed together, undo the twentieth century history of the modern still life as an exercise in formal, naturalistic depiction. The architectural setting of Still Life 1 paired with the naturalistic cypress trees suggests exterior space, while the title and the geometric objects placed next to the trees demand that the image be viewed at the intimate scale of a group of objects put together in the artist's studio. To add further disorientation, the cypress tree in Still Life 2 is supported not by roots but by an artificial stand, transforming naturalistic tree into architectural model. The image of an artificial tree in this later work immediately throws doubt upon the landscape scenes of Journey to Portugal raising the question of whether they were drawn from any real landscape, or were themselves still lifes elaborately and imaginatively staged as exterior spaces. The title of the later engraving, Two Trees on the Table, is more explicit in its reference to this disquieting interplay between the scales of exterior and interior spaces.

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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