Carlos Martins (1946 - )

Pedra branca (1990)
White Stone

Lithograph on paper
height: 53.5cm
width: 39cm

Donated by Carlos Martins 1998


ESCALA holds a total of twenty-five works by Carlos Martins, and this is a striking example of his more recent work. Pedra Branca, together with the etching of the same date, 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 Martins' 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 origins. Pedra Branca distils this concern into a minimally rendered white stone. This white stone, as well as being, like Melancholy, a strikingly minimalist image, evokes the discovery of lithography. Invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1798, the lithograph was the first new process since the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century. At this time a smooth piece of limestone was used (Greek 'lithos'= stone). The depiction of materials used in the process of rendering prints is used with metaphoric force in Martins' work, also appearing in Homage to Anaïs Nin (1984). Here, propped next to an image of Nin, it is a blank sheet of metal ready for engraving that plays this part. The image of un-worked material acts as a reminder of the long process of inscription that precedes the final print: the investment of time and labour that produces a true homage. The idea of history, homage, recuperation and recovery is central to Martins' knowledge and use of traditional techniques, reflecting his view that history is not something lost in the past but that 'it is present in our memory, in our age'.

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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