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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Hynek Martinec

b. 1980, Czech Republic

Hynek Martinec's paintings and drawings explore ideas about time, history, reality and spirituality, often appropriating imagery from vintage photographs and the Old Masters.

Martinec's recent paintings are grisaille still lifes that play with the archetypes of the devotional picture and the vanitas. For example, both Every Minute You Are Closer to Death (2013) and Experience of Being Alive (2014) are still lifes in the tradition of the Dutch masters of the genre, yet contain contemporary objects from the twenty first century, a digital radio and a tablet computer displaying Damien Hirst's grinning diamond skull. You Will Become As My God (2013) depicts a complex still life before a vague interior space. The composition includes not only flowers, bread and a crab, but a party balloon. The whole is distorted with shaving foam and pierced by an arrow like a strange St Sebastian. The setting is an abandoned dancehall.

Martinec uses religious symbolism as he feels that in the twenty first century religion is still a pervasive part of our daily lives. It surrounds us and permeates throughout society, a fact of life whether we choose to partake or reject. However, there is also a powerful sense that in his work Martinec is pushing beyond the surface of things, perceiving meanings and interconnections that locate profundity in mundane reality. His intense contemplation of the world through which he moves seems to allow him to perceive a spiritual life like a shadow behind everyday reality.

Alongside the still lifes are new works are derived from vintage portrait photographs. The original images of anonymous sitters are rendered in Martinec's characteristic monochrome photorealist technique but are enlarged to the scale of traditional grand portraiture in the manner of Van Dyck or Rubens. In each painting Martinec has made subtle alterations, such as shifts in scale, as well as making telling interventions. In The Dog Knows (2015-16) a small flame flickers in the air above the head of the hound, suggesting a state of enlightenment in contrast to his self-important but gormless owner. In Good Afternoon Mr Martinec (2016), which Martinec relates to his own family, each person is granted an attribute—mushroom, apple, planet and, again, a flame of enlightenment—suggesting different qualities. The youngest member of the family—perhaps a cypher for the artist himself—clutches a massively enlarged paintbrush.

Hynek Martinec (born Broumov, Czech Republic, 1980) has exhibited internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include Every Minute You Are Closer to Death, Parafin, London (2014) and Intellectual Properties, Vaclav Spala Gallery, Prague (2015). Important recent group exhibitions include Blow Up: Painting, Photography and Reality, Parafin, London (2015), the John Moores Painting Prize 2014 at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, as part of the Liverpool Biennial (2014), Beyond Reality: British Painting Today at the Galerie Rudolfinium, Prague (2012) and the Prague Biennial (2009). He was included in the BP Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2007, 2009 and 2013, winning the Young Artist award in 2007. Martinec's work is in private and public collections internationally including the National Gallery, Prague and the British Museum, London. Martinec lives and works in London. In 2017 he will have a major solo exhibition at the National Gallery in Prague.

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Featured Artworks

Picasso Has Seen Blow Up by Hynek Martinec contemporary artwork Hynek MartinecPicasso Has Seen Blow Up, 2015 Oil on canvas
120 x 120 cm
Fantasy Meets Brutal Reality by Hynek Martinec contemporary artwork Hynek MartinecFantasy Meets Brutal Reality, 2017–2018 Jesmonite and acrylic
38 x 38 x 33 cm
Burn the Witch by Hynek Martinec contemporary artwork Hynek MartinecBurn the Witch, 2016 Oil on canvas
70 x 100 cm
Circus of Nightmares by Hynek Martinec contemporary artwork Hynek MartinecCircus of Nightmares, 2017 Oil on canvas
170 x 240 cm

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In Related Press

Artist Hynek Martinec: To me old Masters Are Contemporary Related Press Artist Hynek Martinec: To me old Masters Are Contemporary Ian Willoughby : 29 January 2018

I have the impression that in the Czech Republic education is more classically based than in some other European countries. For example, when it comes to literature, people learn the classics, they know what's what. Is it similar with the teaching of art in the Czech Republic, say compared to here in the UK?Ten or 15 years ago, when I was at the...

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'Blow Up' at Parafin Explores the Connections Between Photography and Painting Related Press 'Blow Up' at Parafin Explores the Connections Between Photography and Painting artnet : 8 July 2015

Parafin, one of the newest additions to the buzzing Mayfair gallery scene in London, has opened its first group show.The exhibition, entitled Blow Up, is a tribute to the eponymous cult film that Michelangelo Antonioni directed in 1966.The film narrates a disturbing murder story that takes place in the Swinging 60s London, with an unforgettable...

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In Related Video

PFN01 Hynek Martinec: Every Minute You Are Closer to Death Related Video & Audio PFN01 Hynek Martinec: Every Minute You Are Closer to Death Parafin : 27 October 2014

Czech painter Hynek Martinec and Parafin director Ben Tufnell talk about Every Minute You Are Closer to Death, the inaugural exhibition at Parafin's Woodstock Street space.


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